The cheers and claps started strong, but only grew louder and more boisterous until it seemed that every senior at Bulkeley High School was hollering or whistling for their classmate.
Day Moo needed several seconds to realize the award was for him.
From the rear of Bulkeley's auditorium, the 19-year-old bounded toward the stage in his school blazer and loose tie and a Yankees backpack strapped around his shoulders.
"The class of 1960 will continue to follow his progress," alumna Marie Hamilton said as she presented her class' inaugural $1,000 college scholarship last week.
The Bulkeley Class of '60 gathered for its 50th reunion last September, and long before the dancing and catching up, the alumni decided they wanted to use some of their money to honor a current student. They didn't necessarily have a valedictorian in mind, or someone who would haul in one award after the next during last Thursday's senior awards.
The executive board of the school's alumni association picked Moo, a graduating senior from Burma who came here with his family through Thailand in 2007.
Moo is still learning English, but volunteers as a translator for other Karen refugees.
He is a goalkeeper in soccer, dabbles with the guitar, and has taken an interest in graphic design, one of the classes he takes at Bulkeley. He appears reserved yet stylish, with black hair that sweeps over his left eye.
Moo is a diligent student, too, earning respect since arriving at Bulkeley four years ago.
Some "awws" could be heard from faculty members when his name was called for the scholarship.
"Very, very quiet and conscientious, who works hard," said Katelyn Sostak, his Advanced Placement calculus teacher. "He does very well."
Moo wants to become a mechanical engineer and will be the first in his family to attend college when he enrolls at Manchester Community College after Bulkeley's graduation June 14.
As the second eldest of seven children, Moo wants to set an example for his younger sister and brothers.
Last Thursday, a group of 1960 graduates stepped outside the auditorium and surrounded Moo as if meeting a nephew for the first time. He smiled with shyness and tried to answer their questions. If the class collects enough money, maybe, Hamilton whispered to Moo, they can offer him another scholarship next year.
Rosanne Hornyak, now a Glastonbury resident and a retired assistant principal from Wethersfield High School, had tears in her eyes.
"The kids cheered him. The way they cheered him, it was so nice," Hornyak said. "It does my heart good ... just to see someone who really deserves the award get it."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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