Lauralton speaker tells graduates to embrace their 'nows'

Lauralton Hall salutatorian Grace Cogguillo told her classmates Saturday that life is a perpetual learning and growing process, and that time forces people to grow.

“Forever is composed of nows,” Grace said, quoting Emily Dickinson. She advised her classmates to embrace their nows and accept uncertainties.

This year’s Lauralton Hall graduation ceremony was held Saturday, June 4 and saw 108 graduates head off to an array of prominent colleges and universities that span 27 states across the country and include Georgetown, Hofstra, Boston College, Tufts, Pepperdine and Loyola.

A National Merit Scholarship Commended Student, Grace, daughter of Marjorie and Christopher Cogguillo of Milford, received numerous academic accolades while at Lauralton, including the Claire Shannon Richards Memorial Award, President Obama’s Recognition of Educational Excellence, the Office of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Hartford Summa Scholars and the National Association of Secondary School Principals Citizenship Award.

She served as the captain of the field hockey and lacrosse teams, and she volunteered as a tutor for elementary school students at the Caroline House in Bridgeport. She plans to major in public policy at the University of Virginia in the fall.

During Saturday’s graduation exercises, Dr. Toni Iadarola, president of Lauralton Hall, praised the graduates and talked to them about embracing challenges.

Quoting “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss, Iadarola told the class that they will encounter challenges in life but will find their own strength to overcome them as they move forward and change the world.

In “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” Dr. Seuss wrote, “When you're in a slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

Recalling her own personal slump when she battled cancer, Dr. Iadarola told the class that slumps are a part of life, but they build resilience.

“Discover your own resilience,” she told them.

The class valedictorian, Caroline Sarda of New Canaan, developed a deep interest in human rights and serving others during a trip to the Philippines that allowed her firsthand exposure to the struggles of people living in poverty, school officials said. Caroline also worked as a mentor in the Breakthrough Options for Families program in Norwalk, assisting poor, single-parent families for the past two years.

Caroline, who plans to study English and political science at Georgetown University, told her fellow graduates Saturday that they are in charge of their own life stories.

“Every story should have a beginning, a middle and an end,” Caroline said, “but not necessarily in that order.”

She summarized the story of their four years at Lauralton as if they were chapters in a book, and told the class that now they are back at page one as they begin college.

‘We are the authors of our own stories,” Caroline said. “The order is up to us.”

During the ceremony, graduating senior Jemiah Lynn Bennett was named this year’s Catherine McAuley Award winner, a top school honor indicating she demonstrated a commitment to the mission of Lauralton, to living the Gospel and Mercy values as a Christian woman and to embracing a spirit of volunteerism.

“All of our students excel as leaders, whether they create support groups, serve on junior hospital boards or are outstanding role models for younger students,” Iadarola said in a prepared statement before the graduation. “Our philosophy of education is about opening their minds to new experiences and transferring their intellect to the real world.”