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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Students Tell Staples Grads ‘Be Yourself,’ ‘Help Each Other’

By James Lomuscio

The two student speakers at Staples High School 130th commencement exercises today seemed polar opposites when discussing their academic experiences over the past four years. Yet upon closer examination, their themes could not have been more in sync.

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Staples valedictorian Emily Hope Schussheim talked of her love of elephants. She will attend Yale in the fall.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Megan Patricia Hines was first to speak to the 428 graduating seniors in the Staples Field House before an estimated 4,000 parents, relatives and friends. The first class speaker in a Staples graduation ceremony, her slot was an honor innovation by first year Staples Principal James D’Amico.

Megan, who will be attending the University of Rhode Island in the fall, gave an upbeat and bubbly overview of Staples, despite putting all of her struggles on the table. Megan came right out saying that unlike others, she never took an AP or honors class.

She also spoke about the stress of trying to keep up with high academic expectations around her and the depression that followed during the spring of junior year. 

But caring friends contacted a guidance counselor who pulled her from class one day to talk.

“That’s the first thing I take away from Staples is that you are never alone even when you feel most alone,” she said.

The second memorable line came from her guidance counselor “after I admitted to my counselor I was in a bad place,” Megan said.

“He said you have to do you, be yourself,” she recalled. “Being me was not about advanced courses. We have to respect each other’s greatness. ... I know that if I made someone laugh or smile during the say, I could sleep at night.”

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Megan Patricia Hines put all her struggles on the table. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Valedictorian Emily Hope Schussheim, who took 12 AP and 10 honors courses, and who will attend Yale in the fall, gave a more circuitous talk. She threaded her love of elephants with quotes from Cicero, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even fictional character Yoda from “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.”

Why elephants?

“Elephants do good,” she said, adding that they are caring, never forget their friends and mourn their dead.

And she quoted Cicero who in 102 B.C. wrote, “Not for ourselves are we born.

“The fact that we are here is not that we are here for ourselves,” Emily said. “We are here to help each other.”

Each of their speeches brought a round of applause followed by Superintendent Colleen Palmer, Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon, and D’Amico handing out what seemed like an endless stream of diplomas. Afterward, tassels were turned, and caps were hurled as high as the rafters.

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Former Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon and wife Joyce were among guests. They watched granddaughter Emma graduate. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Sitting in the front row was Elliott Landon, Westport’s former schools superintendent who had officiated at 17 Staples graduations.

“I’m here as a grandfather,” he said, pointing out that his granddaughter Emma Glenn Landon, who will attend the University of Hartford in the fall, was among the graduates.

“I’m very proud of my granddaughter,” he said. “And, virtually all of these kids who are graduating were under my former watch. I’m very proud all of all of them.”

His sentiments were echoed by Melissa Kane, who came to watch her son George David Kane, who will attend Santa Clara University, get his diploma.

“It’s an incredible feeling, not just for seeing my son graduate but all of the names of the students he went to preschool and kindergarten with and all through Westport,” she said.

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Posted 06/22/17 at 04:45 PM  Permalink



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