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‘Fiercely and Kindly’ at Rivendell Sendoff

  • Sierra O'Leary stands up out of her wheelchair and walks the stage to receive her diploma at the Rivendell Academy graduation ceremony in Orford, N.H., on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Karina Ricker, of Orford, N.H. receives her diploma from her father David Ricker at the Rivendell Academy graduation ceremony in Orford, N.H., on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Brianna Bean, of Orford, N.H., undergoes her graduation ceremony with the rest of her Rivendell Academy class in Orford, N.H., on Saturday, June 9, 2018. Bean plans to attend New Hampshire Technical Institute. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Moira DeBois, of Orford, N.H., has tears in her eyes as she embraces her daughter Mikayla at the Rivendell Academy graduation ceremony in Orford, N.H., on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 09, 2018

Orford — As graduate Sierra O’Leary bent down in her wheelchair on the stage and locked her knee braces, everyone in the packed Rivendell Academy gymnasium Saturday morning looked up at her intensely.

The place went quiet. But not for long.

Classmate Shannon Fleming reached around and placed a walker in front of O’Leary, who suffered a bad ski accident in February 2017. She then pulled herself to her feet, prompting a roar from the audience so loud it could be heard down to Route 10.

O’Leary shuffled one foot in front of the other across the entire stage to receive her diploma, Fleming following closely behind.

O’Leary, whose family is from Fairlee, has been practicing to walk to receive her diploma for months, she said after the ceremony.

“It felt pretty good,” she said with a large smile. The accident left O’Leary paralyzed from the hips down; she has been undergoing intense rehabilitation ever since.

Thirty-five other graduates soon followed in O’Leary’s footsteps during commencement on Saturday, including Brianna Bean, whose teachers and administrators called a silent leader.

Bean would organize the dozens of glazes that had fallen out of line in the art room with out being asked, and she took on responsibilities in the school’s spring musical, The Music Man, without thinking twice.

Rivendell teacher Carol Sobetzer, who co-directed the musical, said she never questioned whether or not a job would get done when Bean was involved — “and done well.”

“She was on top of everything, anticipating potential difficulties and calmly solving problems before I had to even think about them,” Sobetzer said.

Added Dean of Students Michael Galli: “(Bean) is always giving her all behind the scenes. A leader without knowing that she is a leader.”

Superintendent Elaine Arbour and Head of Schools Keri Gelenian kicked off the ceremony, providing the graduates with words of wisdom for their way forward. Gelenian specifically advised them to seek help if they need it.

“Help is a necessary way to solve the problems in life,” he said.

He also urged them to get off Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter and use their phones “to actually talk to people. Call your grandmother,” he said.

Valedictorian Beatrice Green told her fellow classmates to listen to what is going on around them in the world and to embrace new people they meet along the way. “Class of 2018, let’s go fiercely and kindly out into this world,” she said.

Salutatorian Karina Ricker referred to her class as “fun, independent, diverse and dysfunctional.” Many of the graduates grew up together and persevered through tough times, she said. “I am proud of who we are,” Ricker said.

Students Sarah Parenti and Sienna Paley sang their own version of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’s song, Home, a performance that garnered large applause, as did Emily Barbour’s version of the national anthem.

Class advisor Eric Reichert was one of the last people to address the Class of 2018. Reichert, an English teacher, referred to himself as the “word nerd,” but acknowledged that sometimes words aren’t powerful enough to “express our love and admiration for others.”

“But we must try to use these imperfect vehicles anyway,” he said. “(This class has) touched our lives in a way that cannot be communicated.”

Rivendell Class of 2018

Tristan Bailey, work; Emily Barbour, internship; Brianna Bean, New Hampshire Technical Institute; Carlin Bigelow, gap year; Lennart Burgwedel, return to Germany; Caleb Day, New England College; Mikayla DeBois, Assumption College; Austin Durgin, work; Melissa Eaton, gap year/Unity College; Shannon Fleming, gap year/Eckerd College; Griffin Formica, welding certification; Lucas Formica, EMT certification/New Hampshire Technical Institute; Maureen Foster, gap year; Dashiel Fukushima, University of Vermont; Kyle Gelenian, work and travel; Bea Green, Macalester College; Dan Guadagni, Vermont Technical College; Brian Howe, gap year/University of New Brunswick; Jacob Kamel, University of Vermont; Jared Kwedor, U.S. Air Force; Sierra Longto, Plymouth State University; Noah Martel, Syracuse University; Sierra O’Leary, extended year with Journey Forward then college; Baylie Ordway, New Hampshire Technical Institute; Sienna Paley, Goucher College; Sarah Parenti, Plymouth State University; Zackery Peebles, work; Owen Pelletier, University of North Carolina Wilmington; Samantha Piper, Keene State College; Marie Polczyk, return to Germany; Karina Ricker, University of King’s College; Elyssa Riso, internship; Riley Thomson, Curry College; Meggan Thresher, work; Will Ussler, University of Colorado Boulder; Thomas Wurtz, CDL training.