Lebanon High Students Grow as They Go

By Tim Camerato

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-19-2017 11:13 AM

Lebanon — As he took to the podium outside Lebanon High School on Thursday night, English and social studies teacher Will Connell delivered some unusual news to the class of 2017.

“My message to you today my dear graduates is a simple one and at first it may sound like a bit of a bummer, but please bear with me,” he warned the crowd of students, teachers and parents gathered to celebrate graduation.

“My message today is this: you are alone.”

After a few moments where some laughed and others waited silently to hear more, Connell began to tell a story of his time in Madagascar. A tale, he said, that would help them understand his message.

After graduating college, Connell went to visit Isalo National Park, famous for its canyons in the southern portion of the island nation, but needed a guide to show him the way. It didn’t take too much effort to find one, however, and seconds after stepping off the bus there was a man offering to take him on a hike.

“But there was a man behind him who was quiet, who had a nice smile and who seemed to also be a guide,” Connell said.

And so he arranged a price for the quiet man to take him out the next day. They agreed on a meeting spot and before Connell could leave the man gently grabbed his arm and asked for a small advance.

“Just a small amount of money. Only a few francs to buy things he needed for the next day,” Connell said. “He was so friendly and he said he would deduct it from the total price.”

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Connell obliged but that night there was a knock on his hotel door. The man had returned with his daughter and this time asked for more money to buy her a school uniform.

Connell caved again and forfeited more money before finding a restaurant in the town square to eat dinner.

“Before long, a scuffle among a group of town people broke out in the square in front of me,” Connell said.

He watched as an angry woman drew a knife and slashed a man’s neck. That man, who retreated in Connell’s direction, was the guide he hired only hours before.

“He came over to me with his hand pressed firmly against the side of his neck. He said ‘Could I have just a bit more money to buy a bandage?’ ” Connell recounted. “I said ‘Yes, of course.”

And the next morning when the two agreed to meet, Connell found his guide, not well and with no supplies for a full day’s hike. They went out into the canyons, but the guide ultimately could go no farther and asked Connell to go and find help on his own.

Connell told the Class of 2017 that there are many lessons he could have drawn from the event, such as his gullibility or poor judgment.

“But looking back on it today, my dear graduates, what I remember most was the great paradox of feeling alone,” he said. “It’s a feeling of fear but it is also a feeling of freedom.”

He asked students to close their eyes and picture being alone in grassland, an image, he said, that bore a fundamental truth: Although the graduates were surrounded by family, loved ones and friends, they are still completely alone.

“This may feel hollow at first but I want it to set you free,” he said.

Each student will face a time when they’re alone. For some, it will come soon as they’re dropped off at college or start new jobs, Connell said.

“You will soon find yourself feeling as though you are standing on unfamiliar ground and you do not know which way to go,” he said. “You need to figure things out for yourself and the first step is to look inward.”

Many of the 159 students from Lebanon, Grantham, Plainfield and Cornish who graduated on Thursday night have already done just that.

Each student took on their own challenges and had markedly different high school experiences, co-valedictorians Josephine Bourne and Cole Cloutier said in their address.

They would know. Cloutier was one of the first students in New Hampshire to complete Southern New Hampshire University’s High School Program, graduating on Thursday with both a high school diploma and an associate degree.

Meanwhile, Bourne spent a semester at the Mountain School in Vershire, taking classes while working on an organic farm.

“My time somewhere else helped me to grow as a person and also bring back new ideas about education and other people around me,” Bourne said.

But students didn’t need to reach far to obtain a unique education, the two said. Some took traditional classes while others interned or sought out vocational learning.

“We need to recognize the many different accomplishments of ourselves and others and celebrate the diversity of experiences on the way to receiving our diplomas together,” Bourne said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

Lebanon High Class of 2017

Caitlin R. Adams, River Valley Community College; Carter H. Adams, New England College; Kristen Anderson, University of Tampa; M. Felice Avelino, Colby Sawyer College; Karlie M. Baker, Johnson State College; Olivia M. Balise, University of New Hampshire; Emily M. Ball, Roanoke College; Sage R. Ballard, Plymouth State; Rachel F. Barden, Clarkson University; Heather A. Barney, Johnson & Wales University; Salena A. Barratt, Community College of Vermont; Katia T. Bazilchuk, University of Southern Maine; Collin Becker, Lakes Region Community College; Renee Bellinger; Alexander Z. Bitler, Bryant University; Kayla M. Boisvert, Plymouth State; Julianne E. Borger, Smith College; Emily Bourne, UNH; Josephine Bourne, Long Island University-Global; Alexandra Brandt, Rochester Institute of Technology; Stephanie Brooks; Caleb W. Broughton, Bucknell University; Sydney G. Broughton, Keene State; Josephine Brown, University of New England; Samuel W. Buckman, Plymouth State; Hannah E. Bunten, Roanoke College; Terran B. Campbell; Caitlin A. Carney, University of Maine-Orono; Breanna Carter; Amanda R. Cate; Jack B. Chase, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Graham R. Chickering, Amherst College; Baleigh C. Clark, Plymouth State; Cole Cloutier, Southern New Hampshire University; Davis R. Cole, UNH; Christopher Courtemanche; Nathan J. Damren; Jack W. Davini; Kayla Davis, Iona College; Mykel B. Davis; Devin M. DeCamp; Alyse A. Derouin, Colby Sawyer; Jessica L. Deyo, River Valley Community College; Noah A. Didehbani, Western Washington University; Jaime Dowd, Florida Atlantic University; Peter Elder, Bryant University; Jonathan M. Ells, UNH; Andrea S. Field, Lakes Region CC; Eric L. Fielder, Universal Technical Institute; Cassidy N. Findley, Colby Sawyer; Noah D. Forman, UNH; Mariah Gallien; Nathan P. Gariepy, University of Vermont; Ashlynn J. Gatto, UNH; Paul J. Gaynor; Alyssa N. Gendron, RVCC; Benjamin A. Gerow, Rhode Island School of Design; Dylan C. Glazier, UNH; Austin S. Gleim, Clarkson University; Lars E. Governo, Plymouth State; Morgan E. Grace, Johnson State College; Joshua D. Graham, University of Tampa; Olivia Greeley, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Zachary J. Greger; Haley M. Hammond, New Hampshire Technical Institute; Jordan N. Hammond, New England College; Sophie M. Hammond, UNH; Isabella R. Harriman, Mount Ida College; Raphael L. Harriman, Ithaca College; Greta Hazelton; Brianna Hibner, Appalachian State University; Forest M. Hoffman; Alexandra J. Horvath, UNH; John M. Hurford; Kayley N. Hyde; Raven P. Johnson; Samantha N.M. Jones, Bard College; Petr Kekalo, California College; Corinne H. Kennedy, Cornell University; Kevin P. Kiernan, UNH; Samuel Lawrence, UMass-Amherst; Samuel Leggett, Keene State; Grace C. Lindsay, Endicott College; Marina L. Liot, Dartmouth College; Halie M. Lowell; Sophia S.H. Lurie, Adelphi University; Tyler J. Mansfield; Hunter K. Marsh, UNH; Nathaniel J. Martin, Julia A. Mason, University of Tampa; Kieth P. Matte, Jr., Bowdoin College; Tabitha G. McCurley, Emerson College; Kelsey A. McCutcheon, Champlain College; Meredith M. Melendy, Bates College; Ryan E. Milliken; Jillian R. Mitchell, Plymouth State; Emily M. Moales; Spenser J. Molloy, Nichols College; Sarah L. Montana, Florida Gulf Coast University; Kalen L. Mullin, UNH; Donovan O. Murray; Colleta Koki Ndila; Amber Nicholson; Alicia M. Palermo, UNH; Jacob E. Peress, University of Michigan; Nathaniel C. Perkins, Stevenson University; Jillian C. Perriello, Plymouth State; Jacob J.M. Pinkley; Polina A. Pivak, UNH; Jacob Pixley, Southern Maine Community College; Crista M. Pringle, CCV; Jamison R. Rios, Vermont Technical College; Wesley G. Ritz-Williamson; Brittney P. Rogers, Eckerd College; Kassidee F. Rogers, University of Vermont; Lucas V.R. Roper, UNH; Noah Z. Ryder, UNH; Zachary A.C. Sailers; Bryce R. Sanville; Sarah A. Sentman, Emerson College; Katie L. Shambo, Red Rocks Community College; Aiden P. Shaw, Merrimack College; Scott W. Shepherd, Vermont Tech; Paul M. Slabinski, Keene State; Olivia M. Smith, Plymouth State; Julian D. Stott, Keene State; Annie M. Cantoran Temple, Brigham Young University-Idaho; Brandon I. Terrill, Valencia College-Orlando; Mariha L. Therrien, RVCC; Dylan E. Thibodeau; Tiasa R. Thornton, Front Range Community College; Anna D. Truong, Mount Ida College; J. Natalie Tyler, Lyndon State College; Marina Vaz, UNH; Annaliese E. Volckaert, Colby Sawyer; Joslin Wainwright, Colby Sawyer; Eli A. Weitzman, UVM; Taylor T. Williams; Andrew J. Wilson, Ithaca College; Scott M. Wright; Tori M. Wright, Norwich University; Tina Wu, RVCC.