Ladybugs And Laughter In Randolph

Seniors Also Honor Brooke Bennett, A Classmate Who Was Killed in 2008

Randolph — Earlier this month, two Randolph High students released more than 20,000 ladybugs inside their school as a “senior prank” only to find themselves suspended, considered for felony criminal charges and ordered to pay restitution and perform community service.

The incident was no laughing matter at the time, but was brought up on several humorous occasions during last night’s graduation ceremony. The first inkling for outsiders was senior class speaker Ben Jickling’s mention that his class had been “bugging” the rest of the school of late.

Titters ran through the audience, then developed into appreciative groans and laughter a few minutes later when keynote speaker Peter Flaherty, a local elementary school teacher, revealed his choice of a children’s book to read aloud to the audience.

The Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle,” Flaherty said with a wide grin, while holding the volume aloft.

Flaherty, who had some of this year’s seniors in his third-grade class 10 years ago, wasn’t just joking around, however. The story about a kind and a grouchy ladybug involves the former overlooking the latter’s churlishness and treating her fellow insect with warmth and compassion.

“The one word that kept coming back to me was ‘kindness’ ” Flaherty said, while describing his thought process for constructing his address. “I know it sounds corny, but it’s really that simple. Just be kind. Share a smile, make someone laugh, spread some happiness.

“That’s it. That’s my secret. Be kind to one another and others you meet on your life’s journey. You’ll be amazed at how little acts of kindness blossom outward and find their way back to you.”

Flaherty then quoted notable figures such as essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa and author Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, on the topic. He concluded with lines from the Dalai Lama, a position considered by some to be the embodiment of compassion.

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies,’’ Flaherty read. “My brain and my heart are the temples; my philosophy is kindness.”

It was a gesture of compassion that led last night’s seniors to replace their traditional blue-and-white boutonnieres with yellow ones in memory of former classmates Brooke Bennett and Nathan Allard. Brooke, a 12-year-old from Braintree, was sexually assaulted and killed in 2008. Her uncle, Michael Jacques, a convicted sex offender from Randolph, has been charged in the case and is in jail awaiting trial.

Randolph High principal David Barnett opened last night’s event by telling the crowd that some of Brooke’s family members were among them. The parents of Nathan Allard, who died in a 2007 vehicle crash, were unable to be there but Barnett read a brief statement from Andy Allard, the boy’s father.

“I’d like to thank the seniors for honoring Nathan with a beautiful tribute in the yearbook,’’ Barnett read on Andy Allard’s behalf. “It is still very painful to accept that we will never know the path Nathan would have chosen.”

Jickling lightened the mood with his speech.

“As I stand here, a white guy in the whitest state in the union, you might be dubious that I’ve chosen to talk about diversity,’’ said the senior, who will play with his Galloping Ghosts baseball teammates for a state title on Monday and who plans to study political science at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

“But we have a robot-building, pole-vaulting state champion, future movie directors and Ivy League-bound clarinetists in this class.”

Not to mention a few members with at least a brief background in entomology.

Class of 2013

Brooke Elizabeth Angell, Middlebury College; Kyle Nathan Ashley, Eckerd College; Amanda Leigh Bedell, University of Northwestern Ohio; Ethan J. Bent; Michael G. Bent, Southeast Lineman Training Center; Mead R. Binhammer, Springfield College; Lauren Axie Blanchard, Community College of Vermont; Joshua R. Blanchard, work; Daniel Brassard, Vermont Technical College; Austin Brooks; Mason Lee Rowell Brown, Castleton State College; Isabelle Poppy Cone, Wake Forest University; Aidan Corey; Hannah Marie Daubenschmidt, Castleton State College; Elizabeth Gail Davidson, Community College of Vermont; Adrienne Dudek, cosemtology school; Nicole Lyn Duval, Community College of Vermont; Rose Catherine Earl; Erin Quinn Easton, Vermont Technical College; Aleasha Michelle Finkle, Community College of Vermont; Douglas John Finkle; Emma Rose Flaherty, College of the Atlantic; Kyle Frazier, work; Cyrus Fullam, work; Alex J. Gilbert, University of Maine; Hunter Goodenough, University of Vermont; Hunter Hull; Brooke Cesarine Jacques; Shelby Jenkins, Community College of Vermont; Ben Jickling, Dickinson College; Rodney Mark Johnson, veterinary science; Samantha Lynn Johnson, University of Maine; Erica Joyal, Community College of Vermont; Danielle Jeanne Kangas, Johnson State College; Emma J. Landry, Vermont Technical College; Dani Ashton LaPerle, Castleton State College; Zachary Aaron LaPerle, Castleton State College; Benjamen Robert LeBlanc, Johnson State College; Nina Pauline Listro, University of Rochester; Trevor James Long, Eckerd College; Charlie Daniel McInerney, Ohio Technical College; Jordon J. Mears, work; Mariah Lynn Mears; Noah Miller, University of Vermont; Hanna Gene Morris, Community College of Vermont; Nicholas K. Olmstead; Mackenzie Ryan Poirier, University of Vermont; Mary-Kate Rebecca Poirier, Keene State College; Marie-Emilie Porracchia; Angela Russo, Norwich University; Lindsey Ottilie Schell, Ithaca College; Jacob D. Sprague, University of Vermont; Lawrence Craig Stalnaker, Lyndon State College; Adam Striker, work; Mollie Nichole Surprenant, Salve Regina University; Jay Swartz, St. Michael’s College; Andrew Robert Tillberg, University of Vermont; Jesse Laurence Wakefield, work; Joshua Warner, work; Aaron West; Logan Timothy Whitcomb, work; Zachary Tyler White; Evan Christopher Wilson, U.S. Air Force; Thomas A. Zani, University of Maine; Timnah Zimet, Cornell University. RUHS diplomas awarded to the following students through the Central Vermont Adult Diploma Program: Lucy Libercent; Pamela Wright; Crystal Morey.

Tris Wykes can be reached at or 603-727-3227.