Warm-wishes, good humor and a mascot mark Mascoma Class of 2024 commencement

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-15-2024 9:47 AM

WEST CANAAN — Members of Mascoma Valley Regional High School’s Class of 2024 bestowed three parting gifts for their school during their graduation ceremony Friday night: The first were lilac bushes to start a garden they hoped future classes would add to; the second was a spirit trophy to replace a spirit stick that’s awarded during school competitions; and the third was a mascot costume — a student wearing a panther suit and a purple Royals basketball jersey burst through a banner on stage to show it off to the delight of the crowd.

The ceremony, held in the school’s auditorium due to the rain, was full of heartwarming moments and laughs.

Class president Sophia Taylor kicked off the ceremony. She’d had a speech planned, she said, but after viewing a TikTok about graduation speech cliches, she decided to rewrite it. Though, as she noted, those “cheesy classics” are there for a reason.

Taylor thanked those gathered in the auditorium for supporting the 80 students on the stage. She spoke of the years they spent together, and how they started high school in August 2020 wearing masks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She recited their class motto — “Everyone is different, and different is the beauty of life” — and noted how all of them were embarking on different paths from college to business to the military to entering the workforce.

“And some who are still figuring it all out,” Taylor said.

Taylor concluded by quoting her mother, who would tell her each day to “Be awesome,” Taylor said.

“And if you’re anything like me, you’ll always respond ‘I already am,’ ” she said to laughter.

The class invited Theresa Westgate, a former teacher at Indian River School, to give the keynote address.

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“Today, I’m excited about the paths you’re going to take,” Westgate said.

She asked members of the class to stand up when she listed different interests they had such as the outdoors, sports, cooking and going to concerts.

“Keep seeking what brings you joy and fulfillment,” Westgate said. “Give yourself grace and understanding.”

She told them to pursue their interests with dedication and to understand that all their paths might be different.

“Embrace the uncertainty that is part of your story,” Westgate said. “Be willing to be flexible and open to changing your mind.”

Valedictorian Breanna Houston, an aspiring filmmaker, used a Jim Henson quote as the theme of her speech: “Life’s like a movie. Write your own ending. Keep believing. Keep pretending.”

“I hope we never feel like we’re past the phase of believing in ourselves,” Houston said. She encouraged her classmates to always keep going, to hold onto their faith and what they believe in and to go about their adult lives while keeping hold of their “child-like wonder.”

“Honestly I’m glad that you’re here and I’m here with you,” Houston said.

Salutatorian Lidia Josephson quoted Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese,” which she recently read and analyzed in her AP English class.

“If you listen closely and let the words comfort you, they will,” Josephson said.

The poem references geese and how they find their way home. Josephson connected it to the Canada geese that return each year to a field on Route 4 near Switch Road in Canaan.

“It’s that kind of familiarity that I’ll miss, but keeps me grounded,” Josephson said.

Principal Tina Flemming concluded the ceremony’s speeches.

She encouraged students to “take a moment to reflect on their journey” and to look around at the peers they went on that journey with. She referenced the sports banners they helped raise, the performances they gave and the other accolades they brought to the school.

“You’ve also left a mark on the student handbook,” Flemming said to laughter. “We are not an open campus, no matter how many times you ask.”

The Class of 2024 had a reputation for questioning school rules, which resulted in numerous updates to the handbook.

“I respect you for that,” Flemming said with a chuckle. “The underclassmen aren’t going to appreciate you for that.”

Then it was time for the presentation of diplomas. Taylor, the class president, read out each name as graduates occasionally batted around a beach ball on the stage. Superintendent Amanda Isabelle officially named them graduates and instructed them to move their tassels from the right side of their mortarboards to the left.

The rest of her words were drowned out as the graduates flung their caps into the air and the audience cheered.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

Class of 2024

Isabella Annette Adams, University of New Hampshire; Olivia Louise Adams, Colby-Sawyer College; Kamdyn Lynn Aldrich; Vincent Roy Balch, workforce; Riley Stuart Ballentine, workforce; Kearsten Ann Ballou, workforce; Logan Alan Baravalle, Manchester Community College; Patrick Aaron Bean, River Valley Community College; Caia Aleksandra Berezhny, workforce; Cameron Elden Burris; Lynn Nichole Calison; Henry Jon Champney, workforce; Amber Lynn Churchill, Vermont State University; Thomas Charles Clifford, entrepreneurship; Lee-ann Madison Conkey, Lakes Region Community College; Tamera Rose Coutermarsh, workforce; Christopher Joseph Danyow, workforce; Kyle Patrick Dessert, Plymouth State University; Sean William Dinsmore, workforce; Mackenzie Isabelle Gaunt; Sierra Maria Katerina Gianini, Iowa State University; Sedona Starr Guaraldi, Plymouth State University; Sara Elizabeth Guinness, cosmetology; Zakery Francis Calder Guziewicz, law enforcement; Molly Cameron Hapeman- MacDonald; Dakota Michael Hicks, workforce; Connor Allen Hobbs, Marshalltown Community College; Alijah Sarabeth Hodge, workforce; Breanna Houston, Brigham Young University; Anastasia Paige Ibey, workforce; Logan Matthew Isham, University of Denver; Madison Rebekah Jansch, workforce; Nicki Ann Jean, workforce; Cameron James Jespersen-Pecor; Franklin Pierce University; Lidia Celeste Josephson, Tufts University; Brianna May Joyce, workforce; Abraham Charles Kaler, Southern New Hampshire University; Ezri Carmen Kling, workforce; Jordan Ethan Vincent LaClair, workforce; Leah June Larocque, workforce; Brooklyn Marie Larocque, workforce; Gillian Hope Lenihan, college; Tyler-Jay Richard Mardin, Plymouth State University; Cayden Ryle Marquay; Tyler Wilfrid Paul McAndrew, workforce; Nathan Christopher McGrody, workforce; Tessa Mae McKinney, health care workforce; Malz Emilio Michael, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Kara Marie Miller, Johnson and Wales University; Hailey Marie Miller, River Valley Community College; Jordan Emma Monette, workforce; Damian Mikeal Nestle, Southeast Lineman Training Center; Aina Oshiro, moving back to Japan; Alexis Jane Patterson; Seth Emery Peters, South Dakota State University; Natalee Lynn Pettersen, Lakes Region Community College; Sydney NeVada Pettus, workforce; Maddison Leigh Pierce, Colby-Sawyer College; Gabriella Rose Pierce, University of New Hampshire; Sienna Elizabeth Plamondon, workforce; Benjamin Russell Poitras, workforce; Kylie Ann Rogers, Vermont State University at Castleton; Talyn Anne Schmidt; Emily Kathleen Seiler, Elmira College; Hariala Louise Sethi, Plymouth State College; Aidan Henry Smith, workforce; Grace Constance Stark, Florida Atlantic University; Tyler Matthew Stark, workforce; Ramsey Edward Stebbins, workforce; Travis Michael Stewart, workforce; Sophia Mabel Taylor, Norwich University Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Marines; Serenity Ruby Tetreault, Colby-Sawyer College; James Frederick Thomas III, Plymouth State University; Abigail Grace Thompson, workforce; Bryanna Leigh Thurston, New England College; Jamison Kelley Vivian, workforce; Abigail Rose Webber; Alyssa Marie, Webster College; Emily Carol Wilson, workforce; and Rainah Marie Zullo, Plymouth State College.