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Fond Memories: Mixed Emotions at Thetford Academy’s Ceremony

  • Logan Wich gives a carnation to his mother, Laura Corcoran, as Thetford Academy seniors present flowers to the person who has influenced them the most during Thetford Academy's graduation in Thetford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Logan Wich gives a carnation to his mother, Laura Corcoran, as Thetford Academy seniors present flowers to the person who has influenced them the most during Thetford Academy's graduation in Thetford, Vt., on June 13, 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jordan Eastman cries after recalling fond memories of his close friend, Connor Cook, who was killed after being struck by lightning in 2012 during Thetford Academy's graduation in Thetford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. Cook would've graduated this year, and was honored at the ceremony by classmates and his family, who also presented a scholarship in his honor. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Jordan Eastman cries after recalling fond memories of his close friend, Connor Cook, who was killed after being struck by lightning in 2012 during Thetford Academy's graduation in Thetford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. Cook would've graduated this year, and was honored at the ceremony by classmates and his family, who also presented a scholarship in his honor.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Logan Wich gives a carnation to his mother, Laura Corcoran, as Thetford Academy seniors present flowers to the person who has influenced them the most during Thetford Academy's graduation in Thetford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Jordan Eastman cries after recalling fond memories of his close friend, Connor Cook, who was killed after being struck by lightning in 2012 during Thetford Academy's graduation in Thetford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. Cook would've graduated this year, and was honored at the ceremony by classmates and his family, who also presented a scholarship in his honor. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

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Thetford — Students, families and teachers gathered in Thetford Academy’s gymnasium Friday evening to remember their years together and to share advice and encouragement for the school’s 61 graduating seniors.

The ceremony began with Thetford’s traditional March From Tannhäuser by Wagner, as first the women in white robes and then the men in blue filed in two by two.

Many of the soon to be graduates wore small, oval pins inscribed “CKC,” for Connor Kennedy Cook, a local student who died in the summer of 2012 after he was struck by lightning.

In her welcome to the Class of 2014, of which Cook would have been a member, MacKenzie “Kiki” Jurgelewicz remembered her fallen classmate. “While his presence is gone, we still have his essence,” she said. “May you take his courage with you,” she told her colleagues.

Friends of Cook’s among the graduating class joined Jurgelewicz at the podium to tell stories about his life.

Jordan Eastman recalled a New Year’s Eve five years ago, when he and Cook had planned to sneak out at 4 a.m. to go ice skating with some friends. Although the boys they had been waiting for didn’t show, the memory of drinking root beer and playing Wii all night with Cook taught Eastman that “You should never take your loved ones for granted.”

Shenia Covey spoke through tears as she remembered how she first befriended Cook on a 13-hour flight to Paris with her French class. She hadn’t known Cook before then, but they ended up staying awake the whole time, “laughing about how ridiculous our classmates looked while they slept.”

“Your best friend could have been standing next to you since kindergarten and 11 years could go by without really knowing them,” Covey said.

After a moment of silence, Erika Gray, Molly Pippin and Brianna Thorburn brought down three baskets of flowers.

The girls thanked Thetford Academy’s faculty and staff, as well as the parents, and the class of 2014 streamed down from the stage to give flowers and hugs to their families.

Among the many scholarships and awards announced Friday night was the newly created Connor Cook Scholarship, handed out by his father, Clyde, his mother, Marilyn and his sister, Kylie, to Andrew Sharp.

Clyde Cook also brought with him a basket of Skittles, gum and other treats to symbolize the goodies that his son was known to mooch from his classmates.

Taylor Cudhea and Natalie Mitchell next sang Taylor Swift’s Whenever You Remember, and dean Torrelee Fisher-Sass introduced Mariah Lang, the student speaker, reminding the audience that Thetford Academy has no official adult speaker at graduation. Instead, the students run the show.

Lang recited a blog post by Jennifer Schaffer entitled “A Checklist to the Age 18.”

“Every so often, you will need to scream. That’s OK. That’s allowed. Scream. After all, you’re just a kid. You’re only 18,” the checklist advised.

The auditorium rose to sing the school song, Fair Thetford, before more awards, a speech by senior Ella Chapman, and a 5-part singing rendition of Sarah Bareilles’s Winter Song by Erica Freund, Evann Orleck-Jetter, Maia Lavoy, Natalie Mitchell and Alisha Stommel, accompanied by Colby Richardson’s violin.

As school administrators handed out diplomas, one at a time each row of seniors rose, accompanied always by a resounding “Ooh!” from the audience. Thetford Academy has no dance department, explained parent Duncan Nichols, so even managing to stand up in unison was impressive.

The seniors, now graduates, received a standing ovation from the audience before singing the alma mater, Thetford, We Revere Thee, and processing out to Pomp and Circumstance.

The mood was jubilant as the Thetford Academy crowd stacked up folding chairs together, chatted and hugged. Clyde Cook was particularly appreciative of the closeness of the Thetford community.

“They haven’t forgotten you, is what it boils down to,” he said.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or at 603-727-3242.

CLASS OF 2014

Mason Stuart Bailey; Jeremy Pembroke Bauer; Ella Marin Chapman; Jillian Margaret Clark; Autumn Sierra Cornellier ;Shenia Erin Covey; Taylor MacMaster Cudhea; Ross Michael Davidson; Zachary James Davidson; Jordan Robert Eastman; Johnathan Roger Ford; Erica Margaret Freund; Bailea Gail Gravlin; Erika Elizabeth Gray; Tyler Joseph Griffin; Shaylen Elizabeth Guerin; Kipling Indigo Haviland-Hack; Joshua Martin Jacobs-Rebhun; Shyann Mae Josler; MacKenzie Grace Jurgelewicz; Patience Marie Kasten; Jeremy Neal Kendall; Joseph Robert Kifner; Trevor David LaPierre; Donald Joseph LaPlume; Mariah Mason Lang; Lianne Florentine Lariviere; Maia Frances Lavoy; Jonathan Edward Leib; Cody Stephen McCusker; Angel Lynné McPhee; Natalie Rose Mitchell; Caroline Aibhlin Moye-Linehan; Henry Lalone Pershouse Nichols; Evann Nisim Orleck-Jetter; Abigail Tigiest Osheyack; Tara Marie Pellerin; Tegan Augusta Pellerin; Molly Elizabeth Pippin; Samuel Absalom Pollard; Maggie Melaine Pomeroy; Benjamin James Pratson; Han Qian; Colby Boyce Richardson; Emily Irene Rondeau; Jessica Eileen Shannon; Andrew Mullen Sharp; Randy Bryant Snelling; Hunter Del Rio Stein; Alisha Marie Bihler Stommel; Mariah Marie Swasey; Brianna Rae Thorburn; Brendan Seth Timmons; Carlie Benjamin Ulman; Wyatt Daniel Ulman; Audrey Michelle Wakefield; Christopher Han-Young Wells; Logan Henry Wich; Jack San Ah Wilmott; Mary Katherine Younce; Shunshun Zhang.

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