FAIRFIELD — For the roughly 130 graduates from Lawrence High School on Thursday, the message was simple: strive to change the world to make it a better place.

That was the sentiment expressed by the student speakers before their peers at graduation ceremonies in the packed junior high school gymnasium.

The class president, Brandon Marx, praised the accomplishments of his fellow students. He said together, they had been accepted to more than 50 colleges around the nation, including Colby, Brandeis and West Point. He said together, they had been awarded more than $1 million in scholarships and grants for college. As a class, they had improved their SAT scores collectively. And they always kept their hopes up and attitudes positive. He challenged his fellow graduates to continue to strive for new experiences and not just rest on what is safe and easy.

“This class is so much bigger than Fairfield, and we can impact so much more than Fairfield,” he said.

Marx said while he and the rest of the class of 2018 were entering a world of “political chaos,” he said the 135 graduates from Lawrence are filled with potential. He said if everyone there wanted to live in a smart, healthy and happy world, they would have to live smart, healthy and happy lives. He said it was up to them to fight for justice and equality in the world.

“We are not the future of this country or the future of this world,” Marx said. “We are its present.”

Before ending his remarks, Marx read a quote from “The World According to Mr. Rogers,” about viewing endings as the beginning to something new.

“Tonight we are experiencing one of those endings, but a world full of beginnings is opening,” he said. “Don’t forget to change the world.”

Harley Dixon, the class valedictorian, challenged her fellow graduates to welcome and accept everyone for who they are, and to find what makes them happy. She said they will undoubtedly stumble through life and make mistakes, but eventually, they would find what makes them happy, and when they did, to not worry about what others consider societal norms.

“Find the people who make you feel confident in yourself, because you deserve to be you and to show it to the world,” Dixon said.

Dixon, who is going on to the University of Maine to study engineering, said there are people in the world who are not accepting of others who are different, and said she hoped those people wouldn’t be close-minded forever. But if those people remain intolerant, she challenged the graduates to hold their ground. She said the graduates in the gymnasium had the power to add to the dreary world and make a ripple effect by accepting all those around them.

“We have to be able to hope we can change this world, or else this world will never change,” Dixon said. “I truly believe you all can make a change.”

The class salutatorian, Hannah Walsh, said she was proud of the resilience every graduate had shown in their four years at Lawrence High School. She said everyone graduating had faced challenges and failures along the way, saying she had the “privilege” of reading two letters of deferral from her top two college choices that later became two letters of denial, but said the graduates never abandoned what they were working toward. She said even in failure, her fellow students had the resilience to try again and again and never settled for mediocrity.

“Eventually your efforts culminated in successes,” she said. “Your conviction brought you to where you are now, at your graduation. I’m truly honored to have shared these past four years with you.”

Walsh was introduced by her science teacher, Kevin Malady, who said Walsh exemplified the “will to endure, and the knowledge in herself that she will succeed.”

In his opening remarks, Lawrence High School Principal Mark Campbell said the 135 graduates made up a remarkable group. He said in their four years, daily attendance rose from 87 percent to nearly 93 percent. He said more than 50 percent of the students were on the honor roll, and that many had earned college credits while at Lawrence. He said the graduates increased their SAT scores to an average of 1005, which was a 45-point jump over the past averages of other classes.

“I look forward to the challenges you have all left me,” Campbell said. “You’ve set the bar pretty high.”

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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