GREENWICH -- As 81 students on the verge of graduation fidgeted, fussed and prepared for Greenwich Central School’s 133rd commencement on Sunday, a PowerPoint slide slow played out for their parents in the school auditorium and gymnasium.
"Their bonds are very tight," said Principal George Niesz, noting that the pictures flashing on the screen showed many of the graduates play together, from ages 4, 5 and 6 straight through high school. "They have been together a long time. They really do love each other. There are different groups, but they love each other."
When it was all over, and the graduates had dispersed onto the school lawn to blow bubbles and take pictures, Ali Stein remembered the good times.
"There are so many (memories). So many good times. Prom was great, it was a really good time," she said, then cast her mind back, thinking about having so many of the same classmates for 13 years. "I love it. I love how we have so many memories together. I remember kindergarten, meeting the teachers, nap time, snack time."
"They teachers gave us mugs for snack time. We were so excited. I still have mine," said Stein, who noted that the mug made so many trips through the dishwasher that the original "Alicyn" faded away and she replaced with "Ali" in marker.
Niesz, whose family has been in the Greenwich area for two centuries, said that in addition to their closeness, his seniors also had an amazing sense of competition, whether it be on field or stage.
"Wherever these kids competed, they did it to win," he added. "They are unified in a remarkable way, and they have unbreakable bonds with their friends."
Along with Fryer, Valedictorian Roxanne Henningson, Salutatorian Nicole Brownell, Kaitlin Andrews, Ethan Oswald, Andrew Horning and Clinton English all earned the highest Regents diplomas, passing all eight required tests with grades of 90 or better.
Andrews, who was the National Honor Society president, and Meghan Dusha, the president of the Class of 2010, were both on the girls’ cross country teams that won four consecutive state titles.
"The seniors in this class led almost every one of our teams to a sectional title game or beyond," Niesz said.
While the class had more than its share of homegrown graduates, it also had an international contingent. Saruta Sudsawad of Thailand and Tristan Mittelhaus of Germany received Foreign Exchange Certificates after spending the year in America. Two other graduates, Ashley Aredes of Brazil and Melanie Brehm of Germany are dual citizens.
Commencement speaker Steven Patrick, the coach of those four straight state cross-country championship teams, was equally proud of the school that he graduated from in 1973.
"I travel to a lot of places, and our school has a very good reputation in the Capital Region," said Patrick, who is retired after teaching there since 1983. "You have a common bond. This is a part of your foundation, your core values system, your work ethic."
His main message was that the graduates had joined a new family, one of Greenwich alumni. "Welcome to the family," he said.