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Commencement 2023

June 7, 2023

Words of encouragement, sage advice, and reflections of the past four years ushered the Class of 2023 through Cheshire Academy’s annual Commencement ceremony, held on the morning of Saturday, June 3.

The procession of 98 graduates, as well as trustees, faculty, and staff, walked along CA’s campus, onto Slaughter Field, and under the Commencement tent to begin the annual rite of passage that celebrates the seniors’ achievements and their individual paths. As is tradition, senior faculty members Chip Boyd P’10 and Laura Longacre led the procession.

Welcoming everyone to the ceremony was student body president Osajie Imevbore ’23. In his address, Imevbore reflected on the values represented by Cheshire Academy’s Eight Pillars of Bowden:

“My fellow graduates, as we stand on the threshold of our next chapter, let us continue to embrace these values wholeheartedly. Let us be the agents of change, the advocates of justice, and the embodiment of these principles. Let us remember that our journey does not end here, but rather, it begins anew — a journey where our actions will define who we become and the impact we have on the world.”

Angelina Casanova Cheshire Academy Commencement 2023This year’s keynote speaker was Angelina Casanova ’00, a member of the Board of Trustees and founding member of CA’s Alumni of Color Mentoring Network. Casanova has received many accolades and boasts an impressive professional career spanning over 20 years. She is currently chairwoman of the Board of Directors for Command Holdings, a government contracting company, and is a proud member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. In 2021, she was awarded the 40 Under 40 Award from the National Center of American Indian Economic Development, and is co-owner of Native Way Blend LLC, an official Dunkin’ franchise with a flagship store located in Foxwoods Resort Casino.

In her address, Casanova reflected on her time at CA, and how the school “changed the trajectory” of her life and propelled her to pursue things she previously thought would be unattainable. She talked about her upbringing as a Black Native American and Puerto Rican girl, born to poor teenage parents in the Bronx, New York, being placed in foster care with her brother, reunifying with her mother, and settling on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, and having the opportunity to attend CA.

Casanova urged the graduates to conquer their fears and to take risks as she has done, and to be the change they wish to see in the world.

“What will the world be like in 2043? In 20 years, you will make decisions affecting future generations … how will you ensure the decisions you make are in the best interest of society as a whole presently and for future generations?”

“As a global citizen, utilize the knowledge you gained here at the Academy to advocate for yourself and marginalized people when you’re in rooms when budgets are being developed, laws and policies are being passed … Disrupt inequality, prioritize sustainability, collaborate with others to force change, find ways to share space with those who remain invisible, elevate the voices of those underrepresented, manage your mental space so you don’t hurt others, remember you’re always good enough, don’t lose hope in humanity, be fair, and unapologetically do what’s right.”

Cheshire Academy Commencement Ceremony 2023 capA musical performance of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” followed Casanova’s address, with Kamden Denomme ’23 on vocals and Isaiah Riley ’23 on alto saxophone.

Salutatorian Devan Fernando ’23, IB Diploma recipient, member of the National Honor Society, three-season athlete, and author, started off his address by making light of him becoming a “gambler” during his time at CA; not one who is passionate about poker, but one who took chances to make purposeful investments in himself.

“As we encounter new opportunities to invest in ourselves as we embark on new journeys during college, I urge you to gamble on yourself while learning from those around you. Surround yourself with individuals who not only share your ideals, but also are eager to lend their wisdom, because when great minds with diverse perspectives are impassioned with shared ideals, we are transformed into a united force whose power transcends the sum of its parts.”

Valedictorian Aishlinn Parrinello ’23, also a member of the National Honor Society, Eco-Leaders, Ich Dien Society, and full IB Diploma recipient, reflected in part on her and her classmates’ 12th grade year, as some championed the varsity soccer team in the fall, took IB exams while personally dealing with the war in Ukraine, dealt with lasting effects of COVID-19 while studying at the Khan Academy and starring in the winter musical, and so much more.

Parrinello quoted singer Phoebe Bridgers: “She knows she lived through it to get to this moment.” She encouraged her classmates to be proud of what they’ve accomplished and to appreciate those around them.

“With every end comes a new beginning which, for me and I’m sure for many of you, is scary,” Parrinello said. “However, I believe we all have shown ourselves that by making it here today, we are capable of so much more … I believe we must all move forward with some of that fear and uncertainty, but we must all let those feelings power us through the newness and come out the other side with pride, just as we have done with moving through high school.”

Cheshire Academy Commencement ceremony graduatesBefore receiving their diplomas, the Class of 2023 heard from Head of School Julie Anderson P’19,’23, whose son, Kamden Denomme ’23, was among the graduating class. Anderson spoke in part about the inclusivity of Cheshire Academy; the school has embraced international students since the 1860s, and to this day, encourages students to be their authentic selves.

“You have studied, played, practiced, rehearsed, and lived with students who are from different towns, states, or countries,” Anderson said. “…We are a microcosm of the global community. Ours is a community in which we encourage you to take risks, to expand your perspective, and to do so with an open mind and an open heart. As you prepare to leave the Academy, continue to be your authentic self.”

See more photos from Commencement on our Flickr photo gallery. You can also watch a recording of the ceremony here.