Notre Dame High School's 92 graduates in the Class of 2014 are stepping into a rapidly changing world, Christopher Cipriano, the school's principal, said during Notre Dame's 54th annual commencement Friday evening.

But the graduates, who all wore blue caps and gowns in the school's Sister Marion Rielly Memorial Auditorium, are well prepared if they stay true to the people they became at Notre Dame, several speakers said.

Sister Mary Grace Walsh, superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, said graduates had grown in wisdom and knowledge at the Jefferson Street high school, and she advised them to remember the school's motto -- "Be Imitators of Christ."

Walsh also quoted the author and poet Maya Angelou, who died Wednesday, in saying: "Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer, and let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good."

"Gratitude is a gift that's never out of season," Walsh said. "And a bridge of faith can bring you through every storm in life, but you know these things already because you're Notre Dame graduates."

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Notre Dame High School
Graduates: 92, from 32 towns and cities, and from China and South Korea
Valedictorian: Matthew Lasky of Milford
Salutatorian: Rachel Jankovsky of West Haven

Walsh offered another quote from Angelou for the graduates: "I can do anything and do it well because God loves me."

Matthew Lasky, the Class of 2014 valedictorian, read a poem from 1934 called "The Man in The Glass" in advising graduates to stay true to themselves:

"You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years;

And get pats on the back as you pass;

But your final reward will be heartache and tears;

If you've cheated the man in the glass."

"This poem is a reminder to live life with integrity and always be honest with yourself," Lasky said. "Always remember to take one moment to look at yourself in the glass."

Lasky also thanked graduates' families for their support and Notre Dame's teachers for helping them to grow in character and faith. He also thanked the Rev. Peter Cipriani, Notre Dame's spiritual director, who is leaving the school after 10 years and who was named an honorary graduate.

"We are truly blessed to have you in our lives," Lasky said to Cipriani.

Cipriano said he became principal at Notre Dame when the '14 graduates were freshmen and that they all had learned a lot over the past four years. He said graduates had made Notre Dame proud through how they represented the school in classrooms, athletic fields and the community. "We thank you for accepting the challenges we put before you. We thank you for fulfilling the school mission," he said.

Cipriano advised graduates to make good choices, be honest, learn from their mistakes, give back to their communities, stay positive, set high goals, stay true to themselves and enjoy what they do.

Cipriani, Notre Dame's spiritual director, advised graduates to live the love of Jesus Christ and feel the "tremendous power" of people at Notre Dame's commencement who love them and will support and fight for them. "Be conscious of this caring and have confidence in yourselves," he said.

Town Clerk Betsy Browne, a NDHS graduate, offered congratulations to graduates on behalf of the town of Fairfield and said Notre Dame's teachers "are always here for you" regardless of how much time passes.

The Rev. Bill Sangiovanni, Notre Dame's president, read a list of 59 graduates who had been awarded a total of $12.2 million in scholarships, and Cipriano, the principal, announced that graduate Sean Cronan had been selected by the faculty as recipient of the "Outstanding Senior Award."

After the ceremony, Marcus Fulton, a graduate headed to the University of New Haven on a football scholarship, said he would most miss his friends, teachers, playing on the school's football and track teams, and walking down school hallways and greeting people.

Ricky Fulton, Marcus' father, said he was proud of his son, who was a running back at NDHS and who has aspirations of playing in the National Football League. "It's been a lot of hard work, but he made it," Ricky Fulton said. "I always tell him, `The sky's the limit.' "