A word of advice for Montville High School grads: Courage

By: Ann Baldelli

Graduate Caitlin Marsh celebrates after receiving her diploma Tuesday at the commencement for the Montville High School class of 2014. Mohegan Tribal Chairman and MHS class of 1983 graduate Kevin Brown delivered the keynote address to the class

Montville – Thirty-one years after his own graduation from Montville High School, retired Army Col. Kevin Brown, who was elected chairman of the Mohegan Tribe last fall, told Class of 2014 graduates at his alma mater that being scared is OK, and what really counts is finding the courage to continue.

Brown was the keynote speaker at Montville High School’s 50th commencement, held on the athletic field Tuesday evening under sunny skies.

A 1983 graduate, Brown related how he led a battalion of soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division into the heart of the Sunni Triangle along the Euphrates River in 120-degree heat exactly eight years ago to the day. Their mission was to aid three soldiers from the 101st Airborne who had been captured by the enemy and were being held in hostile territory.

The young soldiers who followed Brown, “many of them the same age at the time as some of you sitting here now,” he said, “well, let’s just say they weren’t worrying about how hot their black commencement gowns were on a Tuesday night comfortably seated in the safety of their hometown.”

Brown’s point – that when the job market seems impossible to penetrate, or college physics is incredibly tough, or the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship isn’t working out – you don’t have to “suck it up,” but you do have to have the courage to know you’re going to get through it and that there are others who care about you.

‘Courage to face your fears’

“You have to have the courage to face your fears,” said Brown, “and face the very real possibility of failure at some point in your life, knowing you will get back up.”

Principal Jeffrey Theodoss encouraged the graduates to hug their parents and thank them for all they’ve done for them. And he advised that the graduates develop a passion for whatever they do, develop a work ethic and knowledge in their area of interest, and respect all people and demonstrate class in doing so.

Joan Miller, the valedictorian, and Lacia Japp, salutatorian, also addressed their classmates.

But the overflow crowd spilling out of the bleacher seats was most excited as members of the Class of 2014 were presented their diplomas. There were shout-outs and whistling and applause, and the graduating class, seated with their backs to relatives and friends, displayed all sorts of glitter, color and personal messages on the tops of their mortarboards.

As each name was called and a graduate walked forward, another section erupted. And, when the students moved their black and orange tassels from the right to the left side at the end of the ceremony, there was thunderous applause and then a flash of color in the air as graduates heaved their caps skyward.

The Montville High School Class of 2014 was history.