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Ledyard Charter School Graduates Nine

  • From left, Ledyard Charter School graduates Hannah-Xavier Varley, Kaitlin Fleury, Sierra Olivier and Violet Austin take part in a "speak chorus" where the school's graduating class of nine talk about their experiences at the school during their commencement at the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon, N.H., on June 11, 2017. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ledyard Charter School graduate Benjamin Seamans has a flower pinned onto his robe by Emma Sisson as Seamans speaks with Gavinn Ribeiro before their commencement at the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon, N.H., on June 11, 2017. Sisson, of Memphis, Tenn., volunteers at the school and received her degree from Dartmouth College earlier in the day. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ledyard Charter School commencement speaker Emma Sisson talks about each of the school's nine graduates during their ceremony at the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon, N.H., on June 11, 2017. Sisson volunteered at the school, graduated from Dartmouth College earlier in the day and is returning to start teacher training at her home in Memphis, Tenn. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Marta Bird, a para-professional at the Ledyard Charter School, gives graduate Kaitlin Fleury a hug after speaking about Fleury's character and accomplishments during the school's commencement at the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon, N.H., on June 11, 2017. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Monday, June 12, 2017

Lebanon — Emma Sisson was honored at not one, but two graduations on Sunday.

First, on the Hanover Green, the Tennessee native received a bachelor of arts degree from Dartmouth College in the morning.

She then rushed to the Lebanon Opera House, where she gave a keynote speech in the afternoon at the Ledyard Charter School’s graduation ceremony.

Over the past two years, Sisson volunteered more than 1,000 hours at the Lebanon-based alternative school, earning her the title of “Volunteer of the Year” in 2016.

“She’s an amazingly compassionate young woman,” said John Higgins, Ledyard Charter School’s director.

The students agreed; they embraced her warmly at the end of the ceremony.

The charter school’s graduation was both personal and heartwarming: Sisson and Higgins took the time to thank each student individually, turning from the podium to look each of the nine graduates in the eye.

The keynote speech touched on the importance of living in the present.

“Your opportunity to change the world comes in the form of ordinary moments,” Sisson told the students, stating that the most important life lessons come when people share experiences.

To her, the Ledyard class of 2017 embodied this perfectly.

She noted it in the way graduate Hannah-Xavier Karin Varley followed her passion of art, and in doing so, challenged others to follow their own passions. She saw it in James Edward Lapre Jr.’s calm, bold manner; Violet Beverly Gove Austin’s willingness to be herself; Justin Lane Waddell’s way of making others feel special; Sierra Olivier’s quiet strength and humility; Kaitlin Fleury’s frequent smiles and kind actions; Gavinn Nash Ribeiro’s caring instincts; Nick J. Acker’s ability to “speak volumes without words,” and Benjamin M. Seamans’s keen leadership skills.

Sisson said all the students helped her grow through simple actions, and in this way they will “change the world.”

Higgins, the Ledyard director, said he could not be more proud of the graduates.

“They’ve set the bar high,” he said, citing students who took college classes, three who graduated early, and the more than 110 hours of community service completed by the graduating class this past year.

According to Higgins, the secret to the graduates’ success lies in their determination and ability to overcome “life’s curve balls.”

“They are determined not only to succeed for themselves, but to have a voice and to be heard,” Higgins said. He believes they have managed to turn their determination into new strengths.

Ledyard Board Chair Christopher Rhim and teachers Marta Bird and Wendy Tucker also spoke.

The graduation was dedicated to Martha Parker-Magagna, a board member who served the school selflessly for five years. Parker-Magagna, an educator from Grantham, died in December.

As for Sisson, she plans to return to Tennessee to work with first graders through a teacher residency program in Memphis. She credited this choice to the students at Ledyard, highlighting a specific moment when Seamans wrote her a letter after her first fall at the school.

“I will always remember (the letter) as the moment I knew I couldn’t do anything but teach because it showed me just how powerful the connection is between students and teachers,” she said in her speech.

Class of 2017

Nick J. Acker, CDL License training program; Violet Beverly Gove Austin, work; Kaitlin Fleury, Michael’s School of Hair Design; James Edward Lapre Jr., work; Sierra Olivier, River Valley Community College; Gavinn Nash Ribeiro, culinary arts; Benjamin M. Seamans, work; Hannah-Xavier Karin Varley, Montserrat College of Art; Justin Lane Waddell, New Hampshire Technical Institute.