Kearsarge Cancer Survivor Shares Her Story

  • Kearsarge Regional High School Co-Valedictorian, Devon Fortier giving her valedictorian address at the Commencement Ceremony June 11, 2016 (JENNIFER MELI / Monitor Staff) Concord Monitor — Jennifer Meli

Concord Monitor
Published: 6/11/2016 11:34:18 PM
Modified: 6/11/2016 11:34:16 PM

North Sutton, N.H. — Robert Bennett, the principal at Kearsarge Regional High School, kept his word at Saturday’s graduation.

“We are going to beat the rain today,” Bennett proclaimed to the 133 graduating seniors, assembled on the school’s football field, as the sun fought the clouds for supremacy above.

Somehow, Bennett’s timing was perfect, which gave family and friends just enough time to hear singing by high schoolers and grade schoolers, speeches by the co-valedictorians, tributes to loyal faculty members and lessons meant to last a lifetime.

Before the ceremony, math teacher Randy Wormald and two of his colleagues stood in line waiting for the event to begin. Asked to name a student with an interesting background, all three agreed with what Bennett had said the day before, that a young woman named Devon Fortier, who will attend the University of New Hampshire this fall, would make a great story.

Fortier shared valedictorian honors with Aidan Terhune, both completing their four years at Kearsarge with 4.0 grade-point averages. Fortier had to beat cancer, which she did, and manage her diabetes, which she’s doing.

During her speech she said, “When people hear I’m a co-valedictorian, they assume I’m some wildly intelligent super human. In reality, I don’t have extreme intellectual powers. I just worked the hardest I possibly could.”

Then she moved into her personal story, which she expanded on after the ceremony. She was diagnosed with leukemia at age 7, too young to grasp the seriousness of her illness. “I didn’t fully know what it meant,” she said as the crowd milled around the track that circled the football field. “I was more concerned with losing my hair.”

The drugs Fortier took killed half her pancreatic cells, causing diabetes. She never mentioned that illness during her speech, but spoke about a condition created by chemotherapy, calling it “chemo brain.”

“Mental cloudiness and memory issues that accompany many sick cancer survivors,” Fortier explained to the crowd. “And since I was so young, that meant I would probably struggle in school for the rest of my life. I promised myself I could not let this happen to me and I had to do everything in my power to fight it. It has not been an easy task.”

Fortier’s father, Tim Fortier, described her as “fearless” and a “relentless worker.”

Terhune’s speech had advice about individuality, saying, “There will be a lot of people out there who want to make your life theirs and who want to live through you, but this is your education, this is your high school and college experience, this is your future. They’ve made their choices, and don’t you dare let anyone take yours away from you.”

Elsewhere, a special chorus made up of Kearsarge Regional School District students, Class of 2028, sang God Bless America, with the voice of 5-year-old Maryn Sherman, wearing pigtails and a polka dot dress, rising above the rest. Her mother, Aimee Sherman, watched, her 25th high school reunion at Stevens High School scheduled for later in the day.

The little kids’ chorus was led by Laura Adams, a teacher whose first-ever class of kindergarten students in the school district graduated Saturday.

Those students raised their hands in a tribute to Adams, who retired Saturday and dabbed her eyes while sitting under a canopy.

Assistant Superintendent Pam Stiles, who will work for the Alton School District in the fall, also received applause. “This is your day,” she told the graduating seniors.

Bennett wrapped things up. “Never let a job define you,” he told college-bound students.

Then the seniors moved their tassels from right to left and tossed their caps in the air, fireworks exploded overhead and it began to rain as the crowd filed out.

Kearsarge High School 2016 Graduates

Silas Allard,Hayley Allen-Lowe, Sarah Allie, Emma Anderson, Colin Andrews, Eleanor Angus, Riley Antle, Zachary Astle, Carter Atwood, Jillian Badger, Travis Bagley, Jessica Baldasaro, Matthew Bartlett, Caroline Beaton, Calvin Berger, Shannon Bernard, Cody Best, Logan Bock, Samuel Bourcier, Nicholas Brady, Ian Bready, Grace Brooks, Sydney Bryk, Michael Bullis, Makayla Buote, Brandon Butcher, Morgan Carafa, Breyna Carey, Elizabeth Chadwick, Emily Charlton, Cynthia Clausen, Emily Collins, William Cornelio, Andrea Cutts, Felicia Dauphin, Ryan Dauphinais, Kaileigh Davis, Troy Davis, Taylor Degroot-Ploof, Joseph Desrochers, Mary Dever, Jacob Donovan, Samantha Dow, Taylor Drewniak, Keelin Dunn, Hannah Duquette, Terry Eldridge, Kerri Emery, Benjamin Esmaili, Aaron Fontaine, Devon Fortier, Douglas Foy, Benjamin France, Madison Frederick, Virginia Glendinning, Kaitlin Gregg, Samantha Hardy, Nathaniel Hargreaves, Kyle Henderson, Hannah Hill, Austin Hogancamp, Cameron Holdsworth, David Horn, Marina Howland, Kendall Hoy, Austin Humphrey, Lillian Huntoon, Nicholas Ippedico, Alyissa Jackson, Emmaline Keene, Brusan Kellerring, Matthew LaPrade, Faith Leonard, Tyler Littlejohn, Sophie Lizotte, Isabelle Lovett, Margaret MacAllister, Theresa MacDowell, Duncan MacIntyre, Maylee Maddox, Madison Manson, Keegan Mattice, Zachery Mattos, Jenna McCarthy, Ian McLoughlin, William Merrill, Riley Messer, Patrick Moore, Lucas Muzzey, Brandon Navarro, Christian Nestler, Trent Noordsij, Brian Patsfield Jr., Noelle Polonia, Dakota Poole, Willio Rehor, Timothy Richter, Bailey Robinson, Mitchell Rorick, Andrea Rowe, Sophia Rucker, Avery Ruggles, Garrett Sailer, Alicen Sanville, Elizabeth Service, Gillian Shannon, David Smith, Harrison Sneck, Abigail Stearns, Margaret Stockwell, Samuel Storozuk, Anna Stowell, Brianna Sullivan, Michael Sullivan, Merredith Tatro, Devin Taves, Aidan Terhune, Brandon Thibodeau, Elliot Tucker, Margarita Tucker, Jakob Ulrich, Joshua Vallee, Justina Valley, John Van Etten, Jakeb Vierzen, Jeffrey Wallace, Myles Ward, Cameron Webster, Alexander Whitehead, Samuel Williamson, Farrah Wilson,Charlotte Young.

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