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‘The Place Where I Found My Passion’: 104 Graduate From KUA

  • Greta Close, of Norwich, helps Duje Rada, of Split, Croatia, with his tie as seniors gather for the procession to commencement ceremonies at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H., Saturday, May 27, 2017. Diplomas were awarded to 104 students following an address by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Cornish resident Sofia DiAntonio delivers the valedictory address during the Kimball Union Academy commencement in Meriden, N.H., Saturday, May 27, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Kimball Union Academy Head of School Michael Schafer catches class speaker Jonathan Grigull but the elbow as he walks off in the wrong direction after receiving his diploma in Meriden, N.H., Saturday, May 27, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, May 28, 2017

Meriden — A few factors combined to steer this year’s Kimball Union Academy valedictorian to the Naval Academy, including her stint as a volunteer with the Meriden Fire Department.

“Being on that made me realize that is what I wanted to do with my life,” Sofia DiAntonio, of Cornish, said before Saturday’s outdoor ceremony on the school’s quad. “I like working on teams, especially teams oriented toward serving people and helping others.”

DiAntonio, who has not decided on a major but may pursue engineering, said she first began thinking about the Naval Academy before high school, but it became her first choice after a visit to the Annapolis, Md., school during her junior year.

“I have had nothing but support from my family,” DiAntonio said of her decision, while also crediting the academic rigor of KUA and how joining the fire department gave her direction.

“I probably never would have discovered this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

With a mix of sun and clouds, the 104 graduates marched to strains of the traditional Pomp and Circumstance down the center aisle, while friends and family stood with cameras clicking.

Head of School Michael Schafer welcomed the graduates and audience, taking care as he does each year to thank parents for “entrusting the education of their children” to KUA and to the faculty for preparing and inspiring students to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

To the class, he said, “Each of you is unique in your own way and is a special part of the school community,” and described them as a group full of curiosity, imagination, promise, purpose, spirit and care for one another.

“May your tomorrows be abundant with opportunity, happiness and love,” Schafer said.

Schafer also took a moment to remember Janie Chase Cozzi, a sophomore from Waitsfield, Vt., who died with four other teens last October in a crash with a wrong-way driver on Interstate 89 in Williston, Vt. Schafer thanked Cozzi’s mother, who attended the ceremony with her family, for her “love and care, strength and courage” in helping the KUA community through the tragedy.

“Janie’s memory for this class and this school will be a guiding source of strength and light, showing us the way forward,” Schafer said.

Schafer next introduced DiAntonio, saying she had grown in four years to demonstrate her impressive intellect and commitment to learning.

Quoting her college adviser, Schafer said “She is at the forefront of her peers in constructing a life that matters; one of significant impact and meaningful contribution.”

DiAntonio’s remarks focused on commitment and passion as she remembered her experiences at KUA and the fun and challenging moments she had with her class — building a shed, repainting a cat shelter and teaching elementary school children the importance of eating right.

“I don’t know what I will be remembered for, but what I do know, I will choose to remember this is the place where I found my passion,” she said.

Though they will not be at school next year, she said, she and her classmates can pursue their passion as the move to the next phase of their lives.

“Doing what we love or what we believe in. Trying our best to inspire others around us and inspire ourselves to do better and be better. We can be committed to whatever it is we choose, leaving our legacy wherever we may go and finding and fulfilling our passion.”

Class speaker Jonathan Grigull, chosen in part his ability to deliver some well-crafted humor, began by saying that when he first looked up the school he Googled KAU instead of KUA, and saw photographs of a university in Saudi Arabia.

Grigull came up with a “bucket list” he has been revising for four years, poking some fun at classmates and faculty alike with inside jokes that drew laughter and an occasional groan.

But underneath the humor was a student grateful for his KUA experience.

“If you think about the amazing time we have all had here, it is easy to recognize how special a place KUA is,” Grigull said, getting serious as he concluded with items 70 to 73 on his bucket list:

“Find a group of people who care about me and want to see me succeed; get your life changed by a small school in New Hampshire; find the strength to leave the most important place in your life; and find a way to tell the school how thankful I am for everything.”

Commencement speaker Gov. Chris Sununu said he was privileged to be speaking at an “incredibly special place” that prepares students for unknowns and where students are empowered to decide things for themselves.

“It is a rare thing to have that kind of freedom, responsibility and accountability,” Sununu said.

His told graduates to listen to their heart and their gut when it comes time to make decisions, calling it the best advice you can get, and then offered some other “unsolicited” advice

“Develop a thick skin. ... It will do you wonders in life,” he said.

“Build great teams. ... That is how you get things done.”

Plans don’t always work out, he continued, and few actually end up doing what they plan. But don’t run from those uncertainties.

“It is an adventure. Embrace the adventure,” the governor said.

In his charge to the class before diplomas were handed out, Schafer said “love” is what comes to mind when he think of the graduates.

“Class of ’17, be great, make others great and do it with love.”

KUA graduatesFrom the Upper Valley

Hana Caloras, Springfield Vt.; Abigail Chellis, Meriden; Greta Close, Norwich; John Connors, Brownsville; Sofia DiAntonio, Cornish; Abby Dole, Norwich; Alieke Feid, Plainfield; Charlotte Greenspan, Meriden; Erin Gregory-Davis, Meriden; Grace Griggs, West Lebanon; Noah Herfort, Meriden; Gustav Jaynes, Meriden; Brittany Kainen, White River Junction; Caroline Keane, Georges Mills; Nicholas L’Heureux, Meriden; Amelia Larkin, Lebanon; Maisie MacMillen, Norwich; Caroline Merguerian, Hanover; Lily Mott, Enfield; Kudakwashe Muhlauri, Meriden; Trent Noordsij, New London; Anna Parker, Meriden; Stephanie Pipas, Lebanon; Henry Pletcher, Hanover; Coulston Rogerson, Plainfield; Andre Scherding, Woodstock; Catherine Sensenig, Plainfield; Lucas Shapiro, Hanover; Ariel Silver, West Lebanon,; Duncan Spilsbury, Charlestown; Chandler Stowell, Sunapee; Julia Surgenor, Meriden; Sam Weinberger, Sunapee.

Correction

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Janie Chase Cozzi’s first name.