As rain showered down Friday afternoon, family and friends of the new graduates of the Woodland School stayed dry in the school's small gymnasium as they waited for commencement to begin.
Following the playing of "Pomp and Circumstance" the graduates took their seats on the stage and Principal Helene Marchese began the ceremony with her opening remarks.
"These students have overcome major adversity, both educationally and behaviorly. All of these students before you have made very positive changes in their life. We, as well as your family and friends, are so proud of each and every one of you," Marchese said.
Woodland School is an alternative school for students who might benefit from a smaller and more structured environment.
Students attending the school come from public schools all over the state, including East Hartford, Glastonbury, South Windsor, Stafford Springs, New Britain and Hartford. Students recieve an East Hartford High School Academic Diploma upon graduation.
Marchese finished up her opening remarks by offering some wisdom: "Life is a series of choices. Making good choices doesn't always guarantee that good things will happen, but if you make bad choices the opposite usually occurs, [and] clearly the graduates before you have made more good choices than the latter."
In observance of a Woodland School tradition, each of the 25 graduates' teachers went to the podium to speak on behalf of their students. They summarized the students' year, talked about their future plans and congratulated them on their achievements.
The last teacher to reach the podium was also the teacher with the most graduating seniors, Margaret Wolff, who celebrated her 33rd year of teaching by saying a few words before individually congratulating her students.
"This is my 33rd year teaching and I cannot believe it," Wolff said. "I still enjoy it, though, as much as I would as though it was my first year. The years have just flown by."
After the students received their diplomas from East Hartford Board of Education Chairman Jeffrey A. Currey, the teachers, staff, and graduates, along with their family and friends, gathered in the back of the gymnasium to celebrate the occasion with a decorated cake.