FAIRFIELD — For 18-year-old Braden Alley, graduating from high school was not always a certainty.

Between athletic practices and going home to decide whether to do his homework or take care of his baby first, high school was a challenge.

“I love the relationship everyone has with my kid,” Alley said Thursday night, moments before Lawrence High School’s graduation ceremony began in Fairfield. “It definitely helps to be supported by everyone.”

Sarah and Abby Townsend display their decorated mortarboards Thursday night during the graduation ceremony at Lawrence High School in Fairfield. Haley Hersey/Morning Sentinel

The stress of balancing all those responsibilities began to melt away for Alley as graduation approached. Next, he said he intends to enter one of the trades.

“No more wondering if I am going to make it,” he said with a laugh.

Alley was one of 114 seniors who participated in the graduation ceremony at the Williamson Performing Arts Center at the Lawrence High School complex.


Bailey Parlin, left, Braden Alley and their son, Linkoln, 1, gather Thursday night for a photograph before attending the graduation ceremony at Lawrence High School in Fairfield. Haley Hersey/Morning Sentinel

Bailey Parlin, Alley’s girlfriend and mother of their 1-year-old son, said raising a child and supporting a partner who is completing high school has been “stressful, but worth it, most definitely.”

The son, Linkoln, has attended sports events with them and formed relationships with Alley’s classmates.

One of those classmates, Brandon Butler, a friend since childhood, said, “I gotta say, I’ve never seen him work so hard, until he had the kid.”

Other members of the class echoed Alley’s expression of relief that graduation had arrived.

“I’m excited for the next phase of life, and what comes with it,” said Corbin Kissinger, 18.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Jack Christopher Gibson. 18. “Watching all my friends and peers grow as people — seeing how some people change and others don’t — it’s an interesting dynamic.”


“There’s COVID and everything, so it’s challenging, but I had fun,” Lillian Lambert, 17, said of her time at Lawrence.

Science teacher Bianca Stoutamyer said she was proud of the graduating class for all it had overcome.

“It’s great to see them happy and so overjoyed,” Stoutamyer said.

Kaysa Salisbury marches Thursday night into the Williamson Performing Arts Center during the graduation ceremony at Lawrence High School in Fairfield. Haley Hersey/Morning Sentinel

The ceremony began with the seniors marching into an auditorium filled with more than 800 people. The student speakers included valedictorian Nathaniel Pierce, salutatorian Gage Boudreau and senior class president Caitlyn Mayo.

“Thanks to Mr. (Tyler) Duran, I will never forget about Gibbons v. Ogden, the most influential steamboat case the U.S. Supreme Court has ever ruled on,” Boudreau joked in his address. “Today marks a turning point in our lives. We no longer have to ask to go to the bathroom.”

Pierce in his speech focused on the meaning of leadership. “One does not need to be the loudest voice in the room to lead,” he said.

In her address, Mayo compared life to a book, saying the high school years are one long chapter that had just come to a close.

“Since we have been together for four years, it’s like our story is 1,460 pages. And that’s a long chapter,” Mayo said. “Even though everyone’s chapter is extraordinarily unique, we all have one thing in common: This chapter does not last as long as we imagined.

“As you turn over the last page of this chapter and open to the first page of the next one, remember to take nothing for granted and appreciate what you have. And, finally, remember to never judge a book by its cover until you read the beauty of the story within.”

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