The Mercy girls wore different uniforms on Wednesday night as they prepared for their graduation ceremony on Randolph Road in Middletown.
It was a joyful and emotional night as nearly 200 students hugged, primped, laughed, thanked and remembered their last four years at the school while at the same time sharing their plans, hope and dreams for the future.
Student body President Hannah Woods said, "I'm not sad ... yet. These four years went by so fast! At first I didn't want to go to Mercy, but now I'm so glad that I did."
Friends Andrea Claudio and Audra Harris both said that the experience was bittersweet.
"I'm excited to graduate," said Audra, "but I know I'm leaving my friends and a comfortable place."
Andrea added, "We've come a long way together."
Spirit of Mercy award winner Sophie Panaccione, who will be entering Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, PA, in the fall, said "I'm so honored to have been selected to receive the Spirit of Mercy award."
One student from the class is selected by the faculty and administration for the award, which is given annually to a student who best exemplifies the school's spirit along with overall good grades.
"This has been a delightful class; the students graduating today are true Women of Mercy. I'm so very proud of every one of them," said headmaster and principal Sister Mary McCarthy.
Parents weighed in. Andrea Simone, mother of Adrianna Simeone, said, "Mercy gave us all a lifetime of memories, but I'll remember the lacrosse and field hockey games the most. These girls made great friends here and they are very prepared for what's coming next."
Her daughter plans to go to the University of Delaware to study biology, and she wants to be an orthodontist.
Mother of salutatorian Julia Kannam of Durham said, "I think I know what Julia will end up studying at Darthmouth, but I'm her mother and I can't tell her what to do. She has to figure it out for herself. But I think she will end up teaching music in one way or another -- it's just a mother's best guess, though."
Grandmother Dorothy Stevens was not shy about how proud she was of her granddaughter.
"My daughter graduated from Mercy and now tonight I get to witness my granddaughter graduate from Mercy," Stevens said. "She was an honor student for four years! I'm so very proud of her."
Paige Willoughby was accepted into the Henry Lee School of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven. You can see photos of her and her grandmother in the photo gallery accompanying this article.
Jacqueline Lambros was happy to be graduating.
"I'm ready! I've been in Catholic school for my whole life! But it has been fun being in an all-girl school. I loved wearing a uniform -- we didn't have to worry about fashion competition or impressing boys."
Jacqueline plans to go to Western New England University in Springfield, MA, to study Finance.
"Someday I want to be the CFO of a company," Jacqueline added.
Winnie Maloney echoed the sentiments of her classmate about the uniforms.
"College will be so hard only because we won't know what to wear without our uniforms!"
Michelle Marks of Newington said, "I'm happy to go. I'm ready for something new. It'll be a whole new world in college."
Michelle plans to study criminal justice at the University of New Haven and she has big plans for a career in public safety.
"I hope to be a federal agent someday, like with the FBI," she said, or maybe even a trooper with the Connecticut State Police.
Irreverent and quick-witted Chandler McCorkle of Meriden summed up her feelings by saying, "It feels a little weird to be graduating. Somehow tonight still feels like practice. But tomorrow we are going to wake up and realize that everything's changed."
To her friends she says, "It's been a bumpy ride but we made it!"
After graduation the girls attended a safe graduation party on the campus of Wesleyan University planned by parents and school officials.
Check out the photos and videos of Thursday night's graduation.