‘Together When It Counts’
Kelli Kehoe, a math tutor at Hartford High School, hugs her daughter Kelsey Kehoe after running up on stage during the presentation of diplomas at commencement last night. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartford High senior class president Sierra Joy Varela hands the key of the senior class to incoming senior class president Tanner Wilson during the Class of 2013’s graduation at Hartford High School last night. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartford — Graduates are often urged to go out and conquer the world, but the speakers at Hartford High School’s graduation, all students, last evening focused more on who their classmates are than what they ought to do.
Valedictorian Laura Felone had individuality on her mind.
“Each one of our individual personalities shaped our class,” Felone said at yesterday’s ceremony. “We use our uniqueness to define our specific group ...and ourselves.”
And rather than point to a class or skill, Felone, who is headed to the University of Vermont, summed up her most valuable high school lesson: “I found me.”
The real daunting question, she said, is “Who are we going to be?”
She encouraged her classmates to dig into the question in a silly way.
“Talk in a British accent, put a dandelion behind your ear ... listen to a sonata,” she said. With “more insight into your quirks, you’ll discover more about who you are as a person.”
Anna Rench, salutatorian, noted that their class was “not the most unified group that has ever passed through this school.” No matter, though.
“We come together when it counts,” she said. “We have our strengths and weaknesses, and they work well together.”
She had a few suggestions for her classmates, including this: It’s not necessary to make big dramatic moves, like swimming with sharks or flying across the world.
“(Life) is not about crossing things off a list,” she said. “Do something every day that makes you happy.”
Class president Sierra Varela chronicled the dramatic leaps in technology that took place during their “long, long, long” years of school, drawing laughter from the crowd. She also told her classmates to go out and live, so they’d have great stories to tell when they returned.
School “shouldn’t be the best 12 years of our lives,” she said.
Among the 153 graduates sat an empty chair. Purple and pink balloons marked the seat that would have been occupied by Whitney Howe, a classmate who died in the fourth grade.
Also, during the ceremony, Principal Joseph Collea Jr. honored Jonathan Streeter, who is retiring after leading the high school’s honors program for the past 13 years.
After several stormy days, the sunny evening had a festive feel, and a huge crowd filled the front lawn at Hartford High and spilled over onto the parking lot beyond. When the ceremony began, the audience was squinting, but by the time the graduates turned their tassels, the sun had fallen behind the brick school buildings,
Elizabeth Daniels held a colorful bouquet in one hand, her diploma in the other. Between hugs, she posed with friends for a photo.
“I’m trying so hard not to cry right now,” she said.
Daniels, whose father, Corey Daniels, died in a car accident on Route 4 in March, was a passenger in the vehicle and spent weeks afterward recovering from serious injuries, including several broken bones, her stepmother, Belinda Daniels, said. “Some of her friends offered to carry her for graduation.”
But that wasn’t necessary. She made it on her own, wearing tall black combat boots and a mortar board decorated with swirls of blue and white, the school colors. School was tough for her, and graduating wasn’t easy.
“It’s something that I didn’t think I could do,” she said. But with “a lot of support from some teachers, mostly friends,” she did it.
For now, Daniels will continue to work at the Wendy’s restaurant in West Lebanon, where she has been a full time employee for the past few years. Art was her favorite subject, and she favors drawing, painting, sculpture and 3D design.
She may go on to study science and art in college, Daniels said. For the immediate future, though, she’ll relax and “soak everything in.”
Nearby, graduate Aidan Nagle was also celebrating with friends. Nagle, who went barefoot during the ceremony, will be heading to Texas to earn a certificate in information technology security.
“You can get a job in network security anywhere, and it’s really high paid,” said Nagle, who’d spent his first two years of high school in Hanover and the final two at Hartford.
“Graduating feels great, amazing,” he said, a big smiling breaking over his face. “It was totally worth the 13 years.”
Class of 2013:
Ryan Acheson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Rebecca Adams, River Valley Community College; Jessica Adler, University of Vermont; Ashley Bailey, employment; William Barker, military; Jessica Barnum, New England College; Christopher Bateman, University of Vermont; Benjamin Beidler, Eastern Mennonite University; Brooke Benson; Elizabeth Bergeron, University of New Hampshire; Zachary Bird; Christopher Blake; Brittany Bonini; Samantha Britt; Jacob Brooks; Mackenzie Brown, Johnson State College; Jillian Bushor, University of Vermont; Cindy Butterfield; Laurence Butterfield; Lucas Butterfield, Eckerd College; Zachary Cardente, employment; Zachary Castellini-Dow; Joshua Claflin, Santa Monica College; Joe Cockwill; Hayden Cox, volunteering; Benjamin Currier, Southern Maine Community College; Connor Cushman; Victoria Dandurand, Asbury University; Elizabeth Daniels; Ethan Darling, employment; Sean Davis, University of Vermont; Devon Day, Lasell College; Keisha Desnoyers, Clark University; Kristen Deutsch, Massachusetts College of Art and Design; Justin DeVoid, Colby-Sawyer College; Audrey Devost, Howard University; Collin Drake, University of Vermont; Ashlie DuBois, Community College of Vermont; Tyler Dubois; Michael Dulac, Bryant University; Jacob Dunn, Johnson State College; Ossia Dwyer, University of Pittsburgh; Laura Felone, University of Vermont; Michael Finley, University of Vermont; Alexandra Fogg, Montana State University; Nolan Frechette, Castleton State College; Nicholas Fucci, Emmanuel College; Joseph GiConte, Johnson State College; Jessamyn Gofberg, Westminster College; Stephanie Grobe, Clarkson University; Sean Grondin, University of Vermont; Logan Guthrie-Lloyd, employment; Zachary Guthrie-Lloyd, Dean College; Jocelyn Guyette, employment; Jesslyn Halford, New England School of Hair Design; Joshua Harrington, Lebanon College; Yacos Haslam; Mikayla Hastings, Community College of Vermont; Robert Heitzman; Nicholas Herschel, employment; Troy Hicks, employment; Devin Isaacs; Merna Ishak, Castleton State College; Myryam Ishak, Castleton State College; Keziah Jackson, Howard University; Kelsey Kehoe, University of Maine at Orono; Colleen Kelley; Donovan Kelly, Merrimack College; John Kendall, Johnson State College; Zachary Kent, Union College; David Kersey, SUNY Albany; Cierra Klampert, University of Rhode Island; Garrick Klunder; Amy Koh, Bryant University; Christopher Koloski; Aberash Ladd, Brigham Young University, Idaho; Michael Ladka, Clemson University; Adam Lamb; Amanda LaMotte; Zachary Latimer; Hannah Lepisko; Louise Rui Jun Liao, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Nia Lowe, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health; Cody Mace, University of Vermont; Conner Marlar; Nikki Martell, employment; Rhyan Mavilla, Community College of Vermont; Jennifer Mayfield; Peter Mayotte, employment; Steven McDerment; Brooke McFarlin, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; Joshua Meeker, employment; Tanner Meeker, Community College of Vermont; Charles Merlo, employment; Kelly Mesler, Johnson & Wales University; Kody Michalenoick, employment; Jacquelyn Moodie; Allyson Mullen, Colby-Sawyer College; Sullivan Mullen, Southern Maine Community College; Aidan Nagle, Tarrant County Community College; Taylor Nalette, Castleton State College; Laura Nema, Becker College; Brian Norris; Matthew Ocker, Castleton State College; Rachelle Parker, Community College of Vermont; Patrick Paterson; Nitacia Pero, undecided; Matthew Perry; Megan Picken; Marissa Picknell, Johnson State College; Emma Pilczynski, University of Rhode Island; Caleb Pope; Taylor Potter, University of Rhode Island; Allison Powell; Bethany Price, River Valley Community College; Anthony Pugh, employment; Anna Rench, University of Connecticut; Patric Roberts, University of South Carolina; Molly Robinson, Mount Holyoke College; Parker Robinson, employment; Garrett Rogenski, employment; Steven Roswell; Alexandria Rowlee, University of New England; Kyle Ruffing, Fordham University; Laura Rule; Tiffani Sanville; Jordan Schaal, New England Culinary Institute; Ashley Severance; Brittani Severance, Norwich University; Sierra Severance; Joshua Smith, Johnson State College; Lindsay Smith; Donald Stanley; Emily Stout, employment; Annatasia Sturtevant, Community College of Vermont; Christian Summarsell, Coastal Carolina University; Zachary Summarsell, Savannah College of Art and Design; Joseph Sweeney, Boston University; Kyle Sykes; Zachary Temple, Castleton State College; Dylan Terino, Castleton State College; Casey Thayer; Michael Tobin; Tiffaney Trussell; Brian Tucker, University of Vermont; Katherine Urquhart, Community College of Vermont; Ainsley Vail, Norwich University; Sierra Varela, University of California at Santa Cruz; William Whatley; Robert Williams; Joseph Wood, Norwich University; Kylie Wood, New England School of Hair Design.
Aimee Caruso can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3210.