Masuk’s first ‘experimental’ students celebrated on graduation day

Masuk valedictorian Brayden Renkavinsky had three chemistry students perform an experiment during his address at the commencement ceremony Thursday.

MONROE, CT — An experiment.

That’s what, in effect, parts of the start of high school was for the 2024 graduating class. There was mask wearing, social distancing, remote learning, and cancellation of and later an ease back into activities due to the coronavirus during freshman and sophomore years.

So, it was appropriate that at Masuk High’s graduation ceremony on Thursday class valedictorian Brayden Renkavinsky recruited three of his chemistry classmates to conduct an experiment just for the sake of doing something that had never been done at a Masuk graduation before.

The Masuk chemistry students then used hydrogen peroxide as a primary ingredient to make flasks overflow with colored foam much to the delight of those in attendance in the stands of Benedict field.

Chemistry students perform an experiment.

Their education experience sure was unique and Renkavinsky urged his fellow classmates to embrace the abnormal and accept what the world has to offer.

Renkavinsky said among his memories was that he was occasionally mistaken for a substitute teacher. “Perhaps my only regret is not playing into it,” he said.

What an experiment that would have been.

“Life will always present you with opportunities. What is important is that you act on those opportunities,” said Sienna Callahan, who gave the graduate address.

In keeping with the theme of being different Class President Elizabeth DeGeorge told a story about a pair of bright green pants she wore throughout her junior year. The pants got her eye rolls or comments that she was looking for attention.

“The fact of the matter is I just like the pants and I didn’t care what anybody else thought,” she said.

DeGeorge’s message was that everybody, at some point or another, will have a proverbial pair of green pants, something they like that might be questioned by others.

“Embrace your green pants. Do what makes you happy — whether big or small,” she added.

DeGeorge, part of Masuk’s State Champion lacrosse team this spring, also talked about how her classmates might be doubted for various things but that they should ignore naysayers, much like the lacrosse team did on its way to rising to the top.

“Embrace the future. It’s coming whether you like it or not,” were more words of advice from DeGeorge.

The theme of Salutatorian Harini Gosukonda’s speech was small talk being an essential part of their high school careers and beyond. “I encourage you to engage,” she told her fellow classmates.

“Life is full of choices and I know you’ll make the right one, because no matter where you end up it happened for a reason,” Callahan said.

Principal Steven Swensen noted that he came on board at Masuk just days before these students arrived as freshmen and perhaps had the same worries the young students had about fitting in.

“We grew up together over the last four years,” Swensen said.

Swensen talked about how their high school careers started with a lot of wipes, masks, contact tracing and Zoom classes and meetings.

“No matter what came your way you were flexible and persevered throughout it all,” Swensen said. “With everything you’ve endured over the last four years I can tell you with confidence you will be just fine.”

Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza talked about all the bad news you see in the papers, such as arrests, and noted that Masuk has provided plenty of reason for hope given all the community service hours students have put in.

“Remember you are hardwired for compassion and empathy,” he said.

Masuk’s graduates will move on to a variety of colleges and universities. The select few who will serve our country in the military were recognized as well.

Board of Education Chairman David Ferris said, “graduates, be proud of your hard work paying off. Never forget where you came from — come back and visit.”

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