‘I Know We Can All Do It’: 13 Graduates Are Awarded Diplomas From Ledyard Charter School
Tyissha Childs wipes away tears while delivering her speech during the Ledyard Charter School commencement at the Richard W. Black Center in Hanover yesterday. The school awarded 13 diplomas during the ceremony. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lynne Grigelevich, executive director of Ledyard Charter School, reassures student Alexis Ives about her ability to speak during yesterday’s commencement ceremony. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Adam Steinberg takes attendees at yesterday’s the Ledyard Charter School commencement through a short breathing exercise during his keynote address at the Richard W. Black Center in Hanover. Steinberg, a yoga practitioner, worked with the class earlier in the school year. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — Before the 13 graduates of the Class of 2013 filed in, Lynne Grigelevich, executive director of Ledyard Charter School, grabbed a basket of the only things more important to a graduation ceremony than diplomas.
“Tissues!” she called out, distributing personal packs to family and friends sitting in the multi-purpose room of the Richard W. Black Recreation Center. “Tissues!”
They were used throughout the ceremony, which was held in Hanover yesterday, instead of the alternative high school’s Lebanon campus, because of space constraints. More than 100 attendees packed into chairs, and a few dozen more stood near the back of the room.
Before hearing several of the students’ individualized thank-you speeches, the audience listened to remarks from Trustee Chris Rhim, who told a story about a Cambodian bartender in Washington, D.C., who turned his personal charity work into a thriving nonprofit organization with the help of the network of friends and acquaintances he made while tending bar.
Those sorts of networks can be relied on, Rhim said, pivoting the story back to the graduates, when they stumble and fall along the way.
“Notice I said when you stumble and fall,” Rhim said.
The “when” — as opposed to the “if” — wasn’t a foreign concept to many of the graduates, who later took to the lectern to tell personal stories of the hardships they faced before and during their time at the charter school, which according to its website serves “underperforming or disengaged students in grades 9-12.”
Many students alluded to bouncing around to various schools, districts and even states before settling in at Ledyard. Some mentioned difficult personal losses they suffered while growing up. Some will be attending college next year; others will join the workforce.
But all of the graduates who spoke heaped praise on their various support systems, which included families, friends and the school itself.
“There is a sense of safety and security here that you don’t really find in a traditional high school,” said Floyd Tetreault, one of the 10 graduates able to attend the ceremony.
“It was the best time I had in all my years in high school,” said Morgan Merrihew, who began attending Ledyard at the end of her junior year.
Danielle Olisky, who attended four schools over the course of four years, said she was nervous about graduation and what comes afterward, but still provided optimistic words to her fellow classmates.
“I know I can do it,” she said. “I know we can all do it.”
Still, certain challenges continued to present themselves, even during the ceremony itself — notably the crackling PA system feedback that bubbled up every few minutes, obscuring speakers’ voices.
“All right, let’s try a magic trick,” Grigelevich said at one point, unscrewing the microphone’s base, adding that one never knows when something unplanned might occur. “Like you might need to change the batteries in the microphone,” she said.
The interference temporarily defeated, Grigelevich went onto to offer personal words of encouragement, many of which focused on resilience and strength, to each of the graduates. “You have made it,” she told Merrihew. “You have found you.”
But the ceremony, while ultimately more focused on individual graduates, did include its share of sentiments that wouldn’t be out of place in a more traditional graduation.
“There’s nothing that we cannot do if we let go of our fears,” said Adam Steinberg, of Upper Valley-based Yoga to Go, who gave the ceremony’s keynote address. “Each day is a blessing. Each breath is a blessing.”
Jon Wolper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3248.
Here are the members of the Ledyard Charter School Class of 2013, as provided by the school:
Jordyn Bagalio, equine studies; Tyissha M. Childs, criminal justice studies; Mathew Cowles, NHTI; Isaac Farr, work; Alexis D. Ives, cosmetology; Daniel Jeremy Keady, Colby-Sawyer College; Shantel Lynch, work; Douglas McGrath, musician; Morgan T. Merrihew, Lebanon College; Danielle Olisky, nursing school; Elisha Rogers, Lebanon College; Spencer M. Sullivan, management training; Floyd Tetreault, work.