NORWALK, Conn. – "Mr. Virginia Union University" addressed a group of young, tassel-bearing Norwalk residents Tuesday morning, one "problem child" to another.
"I know you all been through a lot, and I applaud you all for making it to this next level," Kadeem Roberts said to about 15 teenagers who were graduating from high school, after going through summer school. "I was a problem child at Norwalk High, I know that. Now look at me. I grew up, I changed."
The kids got other encouraging words during a ceremony in the Norwalk High School library, a tradition that gives kids who missed their high school graduations a special send-off.
"You've got an extra advantage," Superintendent Susan Marks said. "It may not have been easy for you. You may have had to study a little harder. You may have had to take a class once or twice. But you know that you can do that. So whatever obstacle that comes before you in the future, you will have this experience to know that you can do it."
"You did it, you have your diploma," said Mayor Richard Moccia, who told the graduates he had "barely skimmed by, by the seat of my pants" in high school. He advised them to continue their endeavors.
State Sen. Bob Duff handed each graduate a chocolate bar, after telling them about the many failures Milton Hershey experienced before succeeding in inventing milk chocolate.
High school had been "hard," Christine Dervil said, because of "confrontations and stuff." She plans to go to Norwalk Community College and then UConn at Storrs, to become a veterinarian.
"I feel like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders," she said.
Roberts, a former student at the George Washington Carver Center, is now a college senior majoring in elementary education. As Mr. Virginia Union University, he said, he is more than the face of his class, and has many functions to manage.
"I love where I came from because it made me who I [am] today," he said. "I want to embrace and enlighten the kids today and tell them this is life. In life, battles always go to the stronger, faster man. Basically, you've just got to push every day to be successful. And this is the start of success right here, graduating from high school."