It was a big day for Windsor Locks High School seniors. They crossed the stage and collected their diplomas as graduates. But it was also an important day for their principal.
Last year’s graduation was supposed to be Rebecca Bissonnette’s first as principal at Windsor Locks High School, but she couldn’t make it due to health concerns. So this year became her first, and she got to make the most out of it.
“I’m excited. I’ve been waiting for this day for a while,” said Windsor Locks High School salutatorian Nicole DiPoppo.
It’s a day celebrating accomplishments. An end and a new beginning. 98 high school students graduated on Monday and say they’re ready for what comes next.
“My mom is actually a teacher, so she’s always been an inspiration to me. And I would like to be the change that I want to see in the world within education,” said graduate Grace Emmons, who wants to be a special education teacher.
“Next year, I’m going to RPI in Troy, New York for aeronautical engineering,” DiPoppo said.
For their principal, it’s a moment of triumph to be at graduation with them, to shake their hands and to hand them the diploma they’ve worked years to earn.
Bissonnette joined the district in 2020. In the midst of navigating education during a pandemic, she was diagnosed with cancer and a new battle began.
“It was hard. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Bissonnette said.
Bissonnette missed her first graduation as principal in 2021 because of the cancer. But on this graduation day, she showed up cancer-free.
She credits her students for keeping her focused.
“That was the thing that kept me going, my kids. Showing up every day for them to let them know even when the world throws you a curve ball, we can get through it and do hard things. And I always want to model things for them. So not giving up and still being here whenever I could, that's why I did it,” Bissonnette said.
“She’s definitely an inspiration to all of us,” DiPoppo said. “She’s really a fighter.”
Traditionally, the superintendent hands out the diplomas to graduates. But this year, Bissonnette said the superintendent wanted her to do it.
“He gave me a call Sunday night, and he had been thinking and given all the circumstances, he would like to break traditions this year to actually allow me to give diplomas to our kiddos,” Bissonnette said.
She said it’s an honor to say goodbye to the 98 students she’s grown close to, and she wants them to know there’s nothing they can’t do.
“Take chances, fight hard, and never give up. You can do amazing things,” Bissonnette said.
Get the latest news delivered directly to your inbox. Click here to sign up for our breaking news and other newsletters.