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Lebanon High School graduates ‘found a way to thrive’ in a year like no other

  • Lebanon High School graduate Anthony Cushman is ready to line up for the start of the school's graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Calvin Bates, left, and Jake Hibner tour Lebanon High School for a final time as students before the start of their graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Lebanon, N.H. The two met in kindergarten and have been best friends since. They were reminiscing about the classes they have taken over the years. This room belonged to teacher Jacklyn Angell, who they said acted as a mentor during their freshman year. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Lebanon High School graduate Ryan Vorachak talks with friends before the start of the school's graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 10, 2021. Vorachak's mortar board was decorated with cars, a film canister and hand sanitizer. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2021 9:30:54 PM
Modified: 6/10/2021 9:30:58 PM

LEBANON — Lebanon High School’s graduating seniors celebrated making it through two difficult years where students responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with “grace” during the school’s commencement ceremony Thursday night.

After Lebanon’s schools transitioned to remote learning last March, the Class of 2021 saw five schedule changes, entered a world of online learning and was forced to forgo traditional high school milestones such as homecoming, bonfires and the fall musical.

Even when they did come back to in-person classes, students wore face masks for eight hours a day and had to remain socially distanced, said social studies teacher Amanda Valliere.

“But you not only survived, you found a way to thrive and made it your own,” Valliere, this year’s class speaker, told graduates, family and friends gathered at the Lebanon High School football field.

Valliere, a 2006 LHS graduate, commended the graduating seniors for persevering through what she said was a high school experience that could be “a little rocky,” all while succeeding in academics and athletics.

“It is pretty amazing that we actually get to be here and I have to say it is wonderful to see all of your faces,” she said looking over students, parents and community members at the Lebanon High School athletic fields.

During the pandemic, Valliere said, students never lost faith in their teachers. They came to school every day, made them laugh and gave them room to make mistakes, all while doing everything that was asked, she said.

Valliere recalled having a difficult time right before April vacation, partially because it was the anniversary of a breakup and also because of the pressures of teaching in a pandemic.

She said she cried every day in her car and, one day, could feel her chest tightening as she walked through the halls. Two students saw her, stopped and said “your hair is so pretty.”

“I felt that tightness in my chest loosen because I felt good about myself,” Valliere said, adding she started to think “you can do this.”

“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this year OK,” she said.

Valedictorian Ryan Tanski also noted the “novel situation” that his class found themselves in after the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools last March.

While students pushed past the challenges presented, Tanski said, he also lamented not knowing his fellow seniors as well as they might under normal circumstances.

Tanski also expressed feeling alone and anxious during the pandemic, saying people often are too afraid to discuss mental health.

“People share what they want to share with whom they want to share it, so it is incredibly important to be kind,” he said.

“Be the support you wish you had on the day where hope seemed most distant,” Tanski added.

Aside from socially distanced seating and the wearing of face masks, Thursday’s ceremony went off like those before it.

Parents, eager to get a picture of their graduate, jostled for positioning as students walked onto the athletic fields. And seniors still threw their mortarboards and went to hug family and friends after receiving their diplomas.

Those traditions were largely put on hold last year, when the coronavirus pandemic forced Lebanon to hold a virtual ceremony for the Class of 2020.

“If you told me in December that we would be here in this capacity, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said LHS Principal Ian Smith.

Smith said that when the academic year started in the fall, he thought students wouldn’t wear masks regularly and teachers and staff would have to chase them down for constant reminders.

“I was wrong, completely wrong,” Smith said, adding that students’ response was emblematic of their commitment to learning, through altered schedules, academic challenges and changes to extracurricular activities.

“I just think that this is incredible and I’m excited for you and these kids to have this experience,” he said.

Salutatorian Eloise Hampton also praised her class, describing her colleagues as the type of people who don’t hesitate to offer homework help, hold doors open for each other and quickly remind a teacher when they forgot to unmute themselves in a virtual class.

“I have learned that in the end, we won’t remember the tests or the games or the recitals nearly as much as the long nights studying, time with friends and chaotic bus rides and team dinners,” she said.

“Most important, I have learned that the greatest goal we can set for ourselves is to be kind,” Hampton added.

Tim Camerato can be reached at or 603-727-3223.

Lebanon High School’s class of 2021 graduates and their future plans:

Cassandra M. Aaron, Polk State College; Isabelle C. Ackerman, Ithaca College; Griffin C. Adams, University of New Hampshire; Connor J. Allen; Hasnain C. Altaf, University of Connecticut; Jill A. Anderson, Brigham Young University-Idaho; Kristina L. Austin, Utica College; Jory K. Ballard, UNH; Lillian R. Barber, Westfield State University; Daniel Barrera, Loyola University-New Orleans; Calvin J. Bates, Connecticut College; Benjamin D. Begin, Keene State College; Thomas J. Belk, Northeastern University; Emmanuel J. Bello, UNH; Nicole T. Boisvert, Connecticut College; Alexandra H. Bradley, Champlain College; Kathryn M. Brennan, Wheaton College; Jonathan R. Carrier, Bridgewater State University; Camille J. Castellini, Plymouth State University; Landon R. Ch eney; Eleri E. Clifton; Charles Z. Cloud; Cassady J. Coates, Clemson University; Elizabeth G. Corbin, Emerson College; Emma L. Cranage, Mount Holyoke College; Autumn A. Crowell, West Virginia University; McKenna L. Cummings; Anthony B. Cushman; David C. DeCarvalho, UNH; William G.J. DeLieto; Andrew R. Duany, University of Vermont; Audrey E. Elder, San Francisco State University; Willem J. Ells, American University; Kaitlyn E. Eylander, Utica College; Alexander J. Felix, St. Olaf College; Adam W. Fellows; Deven L.S. Ferguson, Keene State College; Carter R. Flood; Ashley V. Fogo, River Valley Community College; Jacqueline R. Fredette, Johnson & Wales University; Emily G. Galeva, Rowan University; Jaden N. Giaccone, Bishop’s University; Mary K. Gile, Brigham Young University-Utah; D. Benjamin Gillis, U.S. Air Force; Sydney Gonyea, Simmons College; Ana C. Goodwin, UVM; Jordan O. Graham. NH Army National Guard; James M. Grant, Lawrence Technological University; William M. Gross, University of Denver; Iona R. Gulledge; Eloise H. Hampton, University of St. Andrews; Samuel F. Hanks, U.S. Marine Corps, Karsten T. Hansen, Boston University; Rachel A. Harrington, Emmanuel College; Preston H. Hewett, Saint Michael’s College; Jacob Hibner, Purdue University; Seamus P. Hickey, Concordia University; Keira Hines, Quinnipiac University; Benjamin V. Ho; Zachary E. Howland, University of New England; Makayla R. Ippolito; University of New Haven; Olivia M. Jameson, Framingham State University; Hayden X. Jenks; Gwynavier E.D. Jobson; Avery B. Kantor, Quinnipiac University; Lauren K. Kelley, University of Kentucky; Jaclyn A. King, Ohio State University; Morgan B.E. King; Gabriel J. Koff, Skidmore College; Jacob M. Kriplin, Southern New Hampshire University; Stephen S. Krueger, Lincoln Technical Institute; Joseph J. Leva, Southern New Hampshire University; William J. Lokey; Roan W. Luikart, Oregon State University; Emsley Lynn; University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Sneha S. Magadi, University of Connecticut; Anna B. Mazur, Clark University; Erynn K. McCutcheon, Western New England University; Joseph A. McGranaghan; Moses Mellish, U.S. Air Force; Hunter L. Merrill; Joshua A. Mondragon; Logan E. Moodie; Ryan A. Mooney, Lakes Region Community College; Elise N. Morrell, Grand Rapids Community College; Zo H. Moseley; Henry P. Mossell III, Paul Smith’s College; Einstein J. Mutisya; Ivan Ni; Gillian M. Nichols, Saint Michael’s College; Joshua S. Nicholson; Lena Nowell, Union College; William A. Paterson; Ayla G. Pearson, University of Virginia; Connor H. Peck, Plymouth State; Grace M. Perotti, UNH; Klaleh Punni; Yale University; Kevin R. Putnam, Plymouth State; Morgan M. Radford, UNH; Sally A. Rainey, UNH; Jacob A. Razowski; Lindsey A. Reade, Colby-Sawyer College; Molly J. Reed, RVCC; Haley M. Richardson; Hunter T. Robb, Endicott College; Joseph J. Roberts, UNH; Chantel L. Romero; Kyle C.M. Romero, College of Southern Nevada; Logan R. Sanchez, Fordham University; Gabriela Santana, University of the Arts; Adam F. Scheller, Champlain College; Kian P. Schifferdecker, Purdue University; Benjamin R. Shaker, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Joseph M. Shipman; Rajvir Singh, New England Institute of Technology; Kaeley S. Skakalski, University of Rhode Island; Brady E. Small, Plymouth State; Jacob M. Smith; Theodore G. Spencer, Baylor University; Tyler M. St. Martin, University of Southern Maine; Toni L. Ta; Ryan C. Tanski, Dartmouth College; Olivia G. Taylor, UNH; Madison E. Test, Flagler College; Aidan M. Urnezis, Keene State; Ryan P. Vorachak, UNH; Avery N. Wallace, Central Maine Community College; Ayla A. Weale, Colgate University; Taylor Whitcomb, Montserrat College of Art; Logan M. White; Sariyah Y.N. Wilson, Empire Beauty School; Alexander L. Wolfe, Western New England University; Michaela A. Wolfe, Wallace Community College; Dominick E. Wood; Olivia L. Wood-Davis; Aidan Yates; Chenji Yuan, College of William & Mary.

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