NHS Principal Exits with 2017 Grads
NEWINGTON - Each year, Newington High School graduates pass through the Oakdale Theater on their way out of the district.

       Last Tuesday evening was no different, except that this time they were joined by their principal-James Wenker, an Oakdale crowd favorite who helmed NHS for the past 8 years, marked his retirement with his very last graduation address and a slew of his usual sagely advice for a class he considers “one of the best”.

       “There are so, so many amazingly wonderful and talented students in our class,” Wenker said. “I think it’s fitting that we’re all going out together.”

       Over the years, Wenker has followed star studded lineups of valedictorians, salutatorians, and class presidents with well blended sermons of worldly wisdom, inspiring straight talk, and plenty of laughs. Before taking his final bow, Wenker called upon everything from Biblical stories to the movie “Galaxy Quest” to impart upon his departing students the importance of seizing opportunity, putting yourself out there, and keeping your feet moving forward.

       But his analogy regarding commitment started with the Spanish explorer Herman Cortes’ conquest of South America, and ended with a drive past an animal hospital operating next to a taxidermist. Simply put, Cortes “burnt the boats”-literally.

       “It was both simple and profound-there was no going back,” Wenker said. “The explorers were going to do what they had to in order to survive, or they were going to die.”

       And the animal hospital? Well, call it coincidence if you want, but it would appear that it was clinging a little too tightly to Plan B, Wenker said.

       “If Plan B is going to be that expedient, you have to wonder about the commitment to Plan A,” he said to laughs. “I understand having a Plan B, but you’re not supposed to be spending as much time on Plan B as you are on Plan A.”

       Wenker wrapped up his address leading a chant of “never give up, never surrender”, but Galaxy Quest wasn’t the only film he quoted from-he put his own spin on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

       “Life does move fast, and if you don’t move, you’re getting passed,” he said.

       For NHS’s 2017 graduates, life has moved faster than they imagined upon entering their freshman year. So, if only for this last moment of their high school careers, they stopped to look around, recounting state championships, DECA competitions, and numerous academic achievements.

       But with the sentiments of nostalgia came an optimistic look into the future, as graduating speakers urged their fellow classmates to seek both fulfillment and an impact that outlasts their time on this earth.

       “If we can do this we will have proven that we cannot only just achieve, but go above and beyond what is expected of us,” said Class of 2017 Essayist Eddie Cruz. “We will have created a moment to last a lifetime.”

       Cruz’s essay addressed the concept of potential for greatness, something Class Valedictorian Theodora Markova, who aspires to become a neuroscience researcher, offered her own perspective on. She sought to challenge the traditional money-driven framing, turning to one’s passion as her barometer.

       “Find the thing that brings you joy, because at some point in your life, it will be too late,” she said.

       And keeping with the boats theme, Class Salutatorian Ariya Jacob reminded her classmates to be prepared to adjust their sails for changing winds. In other words, take adversity in stride, she said.

       “The bumps are inevitable, but what are you going to do to get past them?” Jacob said.