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Rain, Tears and Laughter Flow in Hartford

Members of the Hartford High School student council look down the hall to waiting friends and family members assembled for commencement in White River Junction Friday, June 13, 2014. 
(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Members of the Hartford High School student council look down the hall to waiting friends and family members assembled for commencement in White River Junction Friday, June 13, 2014. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

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Hartford — Not only did salutatorian Evan Brown gain enough knowledge at Hartford High School to earn him a spot at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he also received some useful fashion advice.

“I learned plenty from friends, mentors, and from work experiences, including that, in fact, it is apparently fashion suicide to wear plaid shorts with a striped shirt,” said Brown, drawing a roar from the audience. “Thanks for that tip, Casey (Ostler)!”

As helpful as that bit of knowledge might be, it ultimately will mean much less than some other lessons he acquired during his high school career, Brown said during his speech at Hartford High School’s 123rd annual commencement ceremony Friday night.

“The outfit you wore or how you styled your hair will be of no consequence” once you have established yourself in the real world, he said. Much more crucial will be “what you learned and how you decide to use it.”

“As you think about what you plan to accomplish in the future, remember that nobody will be giving you handouts,” Brown said. “You must use the knowledge that you have gained here at Hartford to influence the small world in which you live.”

At the stroke of 7 p.m., Hartford’s 144-member class of 2014 marched down the center aisle to their seats, and Superintendent Tom DeBalsi welcomed the crowd to commencement. Hartford’s gymnasium was packed full with friends, family and loved ones. DeBalsi told graduates to “apply what you have learned, try new things and to reach for your dreams.

“The community that raised you will be here. We are your foundation. We are your roots, the roots that will help you grow,” he said.

David Briggs, whose family owns the downtown Gates-Briggs Building and who was a graduate of the class of 1964, spoke during the 90-minute ceremony. He encouraged graduates to take what they learned throughout their years in the Hartford school system and use that knowledge to address the many pressing issues faced by today’s citizens.

Briggs told the graduates that “you are ready to become one of us” and to work toward tackling the “tough, tough, tough issues with no clear pathways” in the world, such as gay rights and bullying.

“We need you to join in with us on these issues,” Briggs said. “Education is the vital key to this. Get more of it. It doesn’t end tonight; it begins, and that is why tonight is called commencement.”

Class president Tanner Wilson, who served as the student representative on the Hartford School Board this past year, remarked on things that his classmates eventually will miss, such as members of the faculty and the senior lounge. He also shared some things they won’t miss

“The pot holes in the parking lot,” Wilson said, prompting a rippling giggle in the gymnasium.

Valedictorian Emma Healy shared a list of cliches that are commonly uttered at graduations during her brief speech, noting that the message that most resonates with her is, “I will miss you.”

“I will miss you, Hartford High School,” Healy said. She encouraged her classmates to look for inspiration in everything they do.

“Inspiration is a funny thing. Inspiration comes from a number of places, so embrace it,” she said, telling her classmates to look where they would be least likely to find it.

After the graduates, dressed in blue and white, many with colored sashes, hoods and cords, marched out, tears and laughter both flowed in abundance throughout the hallways.

The rain and falling darkness didn’t stop friends and family members from filing outside and drawing their cameras.

Many of the graduates said they will miss their close-knit class, noting that several of them have had classes together for more than a decade.

“I met a lot of nice friends here who I will remember for a long time,” said Ethan White, who is off to Wichita State University. “High school in general is just something to remember. It was a fun four years, but it is time to move off to college.”

Classmate Aaron Parker concurred.

“There is a lot of excitement running through my head right now, but also a little bit of sadness, too,” said Parker, who will attend Castleton State College. “I am going to miss my classmates, but I am looking forward to meeting new peers.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

CLASS OF 2014

Mona Abdelghani, New England College; James Abrams, Rochester Institute of Technology; Christopher Adams, Navy; Corbey Aiken, Employment; Zachariah Arnold, Skidmore College; Andrew Atkinson; Zachary Bakos, Johnson State College; Kevin Bettis, Southern NH University; Chelsea Birchmore, Keene State College; Cody Blake, CCV; Breanne Bomhower, Southern NH University; John Borchert, Connecticut College; Nicholas Brooks, Southern N.H. University; Evan Brown, MIT; Amber Burke, Johnson State College; Stephen Burnham, UVM; Tevon Carter, Employment; Gardiner Cass; Chanelle Chaloux; Sarah Chambers, Mount Ida College; Paige Childs, West Virginia University; Owen Connor, Americorp; Allison Courtemanche, Saint Joseph’s College; Kali Covell, Johnson State College; Patrick Cummings, Employment; Jordan Daigle, UMass Lowell; Quinton Daigle, River Valley Community College; Derrick Davenport, Marines; Jeffrey DeGrasse, Employment; Tyler Diaz, Employment; Nathan Downing, NHTI-Concord Community College; Brianna Dubois, NE School of Hair Design; Garran Dumas; Caleb Dumont-Willey; Jackson Dwyer, Alfred University; Zackary Emerson; Jake Engle, Syracuse University; Allison Fellows, Lyndon State College; Ashley Fogg, Johnson State College; Rachel Fogg, American University; Michael Follensbee, Cornell University; Cameron Gaudette, Green Mountain College; Sadie Gay; Skylar Gay, UVM; Justin Gere; Nathan Guarino, Employment; Dylan Gunzinger; Isabel Guyette; John Halpin; Miranda Handy, University of Saint Joseph; Kiefer Harrelson, Curry College; Chantel Haslam, Johnson State College; Hanna Hausler, University of Kansas; Emma Healy, Yale University; Danielle Hodgdon; Riley Horan, Humber College; Cheyenne Hosmer, CCV; Erin Hudson, City Year (Volunteer); Asa Johnson; Taylor Johnson; Zachary Johnson; Devin Josler, Johnson & Wales University; Deacon Kaufman; Benjamin Kelly, Employment; Tyana Kelly; Kaila Kenison, River Valley Community College; Shana Kimes; Damian King, Employment; Mark Knapp, Johnson State; Kyle Kolenski; Sydney Koloski, UNH; Jacob Kroes, Lyndon State College; Branson Landon; Paige Larmie, Marines; Diana Leone, Keene State College; Madeline Levesque, Point Park University; John Lewis, Virginia Polytech Institute; Tesia Lewis, Juniata College; Madison Libuda, Curry College; Patrick Libuda, City Year (Volunteer); Justin Loseby, University of Maine; Alexis Lovell, University of St. Andrews; Jeffrey Lyford, Prep Year (Winchendon); Makade Lyford, Allegheny College; Benjamin Lynds; Forrest Mattern, Johnson State College; Harry-David McCoy; Alexander McCue, Employment; Jeremy McGlone, Northeastern University; Patrick McGrath, Allegheny College; Brady McNeil, Johnson State College; Jamie Mesler, Saint Michael’s College; Caroline Miller, The Ohio State University; Rebecca Morse, East Carolina University; Troy Nadeau, Employment; Emily Newton-Smith, Columbia College Chicago; Casey Ostler, St. Lawrence University; Mariah Palmer, UVM; Aaron Parker, Castleton State College; Emma Patriquin, Ave Maria University; Kirsten Payne, UNH; Kyle Perkins, New England Culinary Institute; Joshua Phipps, Rice University; Yusef Porcello, Suffolk University; Devin Potter; Kalyn Potter, University of Hartford; Megan Potter, University of California-Davis; Nicholas Potwin, Employment; Melissa Pratt; Danielle Raymond, Keene State College; Miranda Raymond, Johnson State College; Skye Redmond, Employment; Dylan Rice, Virginia Polytech Institute; Darrell Rikert; Zachariah Robbins; Noah Rosenzweig, CCV; Steven Rousse, Castleton State College; Tyler Ruffing; Joseph Sass, Middlebury College; Christopher Sawyer; Kelley Schulz, Pima Community College; Leea Seaver, WWOOF Program; Matthew Seaver, Lyndon State College; Walter Shinn, Utica College; Mitchell Simmons, University of Connecticut; Mykaela Simond, Army; Inderjit Singh, Rochester Institute of Technology; Alexandra Smith, Catholic Univ. of America; Kelly Smith; Troy Smith; Jonathan Spangler, Employment; Warren Steins, Champlain College; Michael Stoodley; Sabrina Styles; Ross Talbert, Employment; Adam Tatro, CCV; Nicholas Terino, University of Maine; Shelby Tetreault; Tesha Thibodeau; Taylor Thompson, Kean University; Peter Tsongalis, Virginia Polytech Institute; Nolan Viens, Sacred Heart University; Alyssa Walters, Project Search — DHMC; Lexie West; Ethan White, Wichita State University; Karianna Willette, Coastal Carolina University; Tanner Wilson, Mount Allison University; Stephen Witkowski, Johnson State College; Jenna Yee, University of Waterloo.

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