By John Toole
---- — WINDHAM — Windham High’s second graduating class celebrated a night of firsts.
The 163 graduates, at a ceremony last night on the soccer field, became the first in the community’s history to complete their elementary and secondary public education in town.
“That’s right. The Class of 2013, home-made in Windham, New Hampshire,” valedictorian Paul Maravelias said to applause.
Last year’s first graduating class entered Windham High as sophomores, after starting at Salem High.
The graduates also enjoyed the school’s first outdoor graduation ceremony on a beautiful night.
Departing along with the graduates: New Hampshire high school principal of the year Tom Murphy and Superintendent Henry LaBranche, both recognized during the ceremony.
Chairman Mike Joanis recalled the School Board summoning LaBranche out of retirement to pinch hit. “He hit a walkoff homerun. We thank him for that,” Joanis said.
Maravelias said the town and students are indebted to Murphy.
“We look up to him, we listen to what he says, and we admire him,” he said.
Murphy gave thanks to the Windham school community.
“Thank you for the smiles, the laughs, the joys and the triumphs,” he told them.
Murphy said Windham High has gone in four years from a brand new school to one with a tradition for excellence.
The seniors, at Murphy’s request, stood and applauded parents, teachers and other guests who had helped them make it through graduation.
“It’s up to us now. Windham has built a flourishing school community, which has equipped us with the skills to go off and make our own decisions and build our own careers,” Maravelias told the graduates.
The school community welcomed the outdoor ceremony.
Amy Steffanides sat on a knoll overlooking graduation with her children, Avery and Jack. Her husband, Todd, coaches the basketball team and the family came to show support for him and four of his graduating ballplayers.
“We are so happy. Last year it rained and they had to have the graduation in the gym,” she said.
Marisa Aquino came with balloons for her graduating daughter, Nica, 18, bound for Fairfield University, where she will study biology and psychology.
“She’s a good girl,” her proud mother said.
Nica’s brother, Miguel, who is in the Air Force, traveled from Japan to attend his sister’s graduation, their mother said.