Jonathan Law High School’s class of 2014 is very special in many ways, Principal Fran Thompson said Tuesday during graduation ceremonies. While he had initially planned a light, funny speech, he said he decided to speak from the heart as Law’s 257 graduating seniors prepared to step out into the world.

Thompson spoke of the murder of 16-year-old Maren Sanchez, a tragedy that shook the school on what was supposed to be the day of Junior Prom.

“This class posed the question, ‘What would Maren want us to do?’” Thompson said, adding that the class answered that question with a pursuit of kindness and “paying it forward.”

That spirit marks the character of the graduating class, he said, adding, “Our future seems destined to be in capable hands.”

School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser also talked about Maren, and she urged the graduates to always remain part of a community.

She told the Law graduates that the spirit of a community has the power to build anew, as it did when the community drew together after Maren’s death. She encouraged the graduates to help make their communities stronger as they move through life.

Find your passion

As for the student speakers, they may have hinted at the tragedy that engulfed their school, but they stuck to more traditional messages about finding their paths and trying to make a difference in the world.

Salutatorian Kira Topalian offered fellow students who do not have a clear idea of their futures some words of hope:

“We aren’t expected to have a plan, and we shouldn’t put that stress on ourselves,” Kira said. “One of the most frustrating things I remember thinking about this year is how unfair it was that colleges and other post-high school institutions expected me to know what I wanted to do with my life when I was 17."

She encouraged those without a clear plan to explore and pursue their passions and see where that leads them. She urged them to find happiness.

Kira will attend Northeastern University in the fall, where she has been admitted to the Honors College.

Make a difference

Valedictorian Soumya Kundu told his fellow graduates that they can make a difference in the world, even though at times they may feel insignificant.

“Standing here in this small city, in one of the 50 states of one of the 195 countries in this world, I am just one 18-year-old out of seven billion people inhabiting a small planet orbiting an average star tucked away in a remote area of one of the hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe,” Soumya said. “At a glance on this cosmic scale, it would seem like you and I are all insignificant. The world will not stop for me, the universe will not stop for this world, and the universe certainly does not care about who I am and what I am doing.”

Understanding this, however, makes it possible to challenge that notion and try to be significant, he said. He told the class of 2014 that they have the power to change the world, that among them there might be the person who finds the cure to deadly diseases like cancer, or one who discovers sustainable energy sources to permanently replace fossil fuels.

“Nearly an infinite number of inventions, innovations and discoveries are yet to be made in virtually every field imaginable,” Soumya said.

Soumya will attend the University of Connecticut in the fall where he will enter the Honors Program. He plans to major in electrical engineering with a minor concentration in computer science, and he hopes to pursue a career in research or industry.

Life’s a gift

Class president Michelle Novak shared a quote from Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Titanic: “I figure life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it. You don’t know what hand you’re gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you ... to make each day count.”

And with that, Jonathan Law High School’s 2014 commencement ceremonies moved to an end, and the new graduates walked off the football field to begin their adult lives.