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River Valley Graduates Encouraged to Embrace Change

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 5/18/2018 11:39:39 PM
Modified: 5/18/2018 11:39:54 PM

Claremont — Growth and change: Embrace them both.

That was the message from commencement speaker Shawn Lessard at River Valley Community College’s 50th graduation ceremony on Friday night inside the Claremont Opera House.

The college, which opened in 1968 and recognized its first president, Roland Stoodley, during the ceremony, conferred degrees and certificates to 181 graduates.

Lessard, a 2008 RVCC graduate in the physical therapist assistant program, outlined the many twists and turns his life has taken since high school, where he admitted to doing just enough to graduate but didn’t have the grades or money for college.

After four years in the Marines, Lessard said he was tending bar and working security when he was offered a job in telecommunications, which led to another company where he rose to the position of information technology manager. It seemed at the time a secure and promising career until his job was outsourced overseas and he was let go, he said.

A television show piqued his interest in the medical field and Lessard would find his way to River Valley Community College in 2005.

“It seemed like a great opportunity,” Lessard said.

As he concluded his remarks, Lessard — who works in Concord specializing in treating individuals who have lost an arm or leg — said he hopes graduates hear the importance of being open to growth.

“Growth is often positive,” Lessard said, repeating his path from bartending to information technology to physical therapy.

“People often resist change. We don’t know if change will be good or bad but change offers up an opportunity for growth,” Lessard said. “That can make you better.”

The ceremony began with a procession from Broad Street Park into the Opera House led by Mark J. Polifrone playing Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes.

Jennifer Saylor, chairwoman of the Allied Health Department, led the singing of the national anthem. River Valley’s Interim President Deborah Schmitt then welcomed the graduates, congratulating them on their hard work and achievements.

Melissa Clark, who received her degree in Radiologic Technology, shared a common experience for many RVCC graduates when she spoke of juggling the demands of family, work and school while relying on family support. She thanked her husband for helping her, as well as the school’s faculty.

“We have all had a different journey and different experiences but we ended up at the same destination,” Clark, who has a young daughter, said. “We are all graduates of River Valley Community College.

“We learned in the process we could do it and tonight we say, ‘We did it, despite all odds,’ ” she said to loud cheers and applause.

The graduates also heard from Jack Calhoun, a member of the college’s board of trustees.

“You are now poised to make a difference not only in your lives but in the community and the state and for that we are very proud of you,” Calhoun said.

The degrees were then awarded and the graduates marched out of the opera house to family and friends waiting with hugs and congratulations.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

RVCC 2018 GraduatesFrom the Upper Valley

Rebecca Adams, Quechee; Garrett Albano, Enfield; Jennifer Austin, Claremont; Andrian Baker, Newport; Kayci Bayerle, White River Junction; Naomi Beaudry, Charlestown; Kelcie Beck, Bradford, Vt.; Lases Bingham, Enfield; Nicholas Bradley, Perkinsville; John Brennan, Lebanon; Rebecca Clark, Claremont; Julie Clemons, Canaan; Matthew Collier, Claremont; Kylie Congdon, Charlestown; Nolan Cota, Newport.

Bambi DeFilippis, Newport; Jennifer Densmore, Enfield; Samantha Dodge, Newport; Benjamin Drye, Plainfield; Andrea Ferland, Claremont; Erik Follensbee, Canaan; Felicia Fontaine, Claremont; Jessica Ford, Claremont.

Stuart Gannon, Enfield; Karen Gay, Claremont; Brittany George, West Lebanon; Michael Golec, Charlestown; Julie Grasso, Charlestown; Nichole Guaraldi, Plainfield; Jazmin Guyette, Hartford.

Morgan Hackett, Sharon; Amelia Hammond, Grantham; Meghan Hicks, West Lebanon; Angela Hooper, Claremont; Amanda Howe, Lebanon; Andrea Johnson, Canaan; Deborah Jones-Midgett, Springfield, N.H.; Chelsea Kelly, Charlestown; Katharine Kessler, Newport; Barbara LeClair-Fiedler, Claremont; Kimberly Lefevre, Thetford Center; Katlyn Leskiewicz, Claremont; Dawn Lettre, Cornish; Danelle Limoges, Claremont.

Todd Macomber, Sunapee; Brianna Makalinaw, Lebanon; Corey Marquez, Charlestown; Kevin Marshall, Lebanon; Colby Martin, Claremont; Logan Martin, Enfield; Laura Mccullough, South Royalton; Hannah Meier, Charlestown; Kathleen Melek, Claremont; Jennifer Miller, Claremont; Sithembiso Muhlauri, Meriden; Jenna Ostrowski, Charlestown.

Ann Palmieri, Lebanon; Daynel Parris, Grantham; Amanda Potter, Lebanon; Brittany Root, Claremont; Stephanie Rose, Orange, N.H.; Paul Ruscak, Newport; Gloria Sandoval Gonzalez, Claremont; Margaret Schagen, Newport; Todd Seymour, Newport; Amy Sibert, Newport; Sydney St Pierre, Charlestown; Bonnie Stearman, Claremont; Deserai Stone, Plainfield; Nicole Swasey, White River Junction.

Anna Tassinari, Meriden; Elizabeth Valcourt, Grantham; Travis Vicary, Lebanon; Morgan Ward, Claremont; Anna Wardner, Claremont; Lisa White, Hanover; Meghan Wilder, Newport; Casey York, Lebanon.

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