Senior Honors His Family’s Legacy at Thetford Academy

  • Ian Barker, left, and Peter LaBelle wait for the start of Thetford Academy's commencement in Thetford, Vt., on June 8, 2018. (Medora Hebert photograph)

  • Friends, from left, Jordan Mousley, Hannah Davis and Meagan Balch hug before the start of Thetford Academy's graduation ceremony in Thetford, Vt., on June 8, 2018. (Medora Hebert photograph) Medora Hebert photograph

  • Leah Adele Kaliski gives the commencement speech to her classmates and their guests during Thetford Academy's graduation in Thetford, Vt., on June 8, 2018. (Medora Hebert photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2018 12:25:57 AM
Modified: 6/9/2018 12:26:12 AM

Thetford — Hundreds of community members on Friday gathered under the setting sun outside Thetford Academy, where they turned their backs on a breathtaking view of the hills to gaze on something even more wondrous: their graduating seniors, walking down the school steps.

Throughout the student-led ceremony, the Class of 2018 remembered the moments that shaped their young lives.

Some of those reflections stretched back before they were even born, as with Ian Barker, a graduating senior who is the latest of many generations to contribute to Thetford Academy.

Carl Anderson, Barker’s great-grandfather, rebuilt the school campus after a fire, and served as headmaster from 1925 to 1961; Ruel Barrett, Barker’s great-uncle, took over that year and led the school until 1977. Barker still has memories of his grandmother, Virginia Anderson, who taught his father Latin.

“I think it’s really cool that one family can put so much into one school and one community,” Barker said.

Hallie Zens, one of his classmates, summed up their middle- and high-school careers in a speech: the seventh-grade trip to Washington, D.C.; eighth grade, the last year of middle school, where she felt like “the oldest of the little kids”; ninth grade, a time of “new beginnings,” joined in high school by students from nearby towns; and the ever-accelerating race toward the finish.

“I’m not going to pretend there weren’t challenges,” Zens said, “but when I look back at high school, I’m going to remember how we all worked together.”

On that note, more than one class of 2018 member celebrated their victory over last year’s senior class in the school’s annual Founders’ Day — a school-spirit competition between the classes.

Megan Graber, who attributed the win, in part, to her class’s strategic deployment of a “sexy Shrek costume,” shared her personal timeline, too.

It started 17 years ago, when she learned to walk just down the hill from the school, and marked when she learned to read (12 years ago), when she stepped onto the Thetford Academy campus as a student (six years ago), and sped through the months, days and hours until about 7:30 p.m. on Friday, when, she said, “We are about to leave the safety of the town we’ve always known.”

After reflecting on the past, the students turned to the future.

For Barker, that will involve studying mechanical engineering at Vermont Technical College in Randolph.

He likes solving problems and, despite some difficulty using his hands because of cerebral palsy, is adept at creating computer designs.

For a class at Thetford Academy, he drew up plans for a trebuchet, cobbled together out of 2x4s and dumbbells from the weight room, that he and his colleagues used to hurl a cabbage across a field.

“I like being given a problem and being told to solve it in whatever way I see fit,” he said.

Leah Kaliski, another graduating senior, drew guffaws and cheers from the crowd when she summed up her hopes in her own speech.

“I really, really, really, really” — she added perhaps eight more “reallys” — “hope that high school doesn’t turn out to be the best four years of my life,” she said.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at or 603-727-3242.

Thetford AcademyClass of 2018

Meagan Amalia Balch, Denison University; Ian Thomas Barker, Vermont Technical College; Emma Helen Bauer, University of Vermont; Dylan Joseph Braley, work; Emily Renee Brown, Plymouth State University; Arthur Clayton, Northern Vermont University at Johnson; Grace Alethea Clement, University of Virginia; Joshua Patrick Cole, Vermont Technical College; Gabrielle Louise Curtis, Susquehanna University; Hannah Faith Davis, Emmanuel College; Ella Licheng Farrell-Starr, Eckerd College; Jacob Nicholas Fortier, work; James Clayt on Goodling, Cornell University; Megan Faith Graber, Massachusetts College of Art and D esign; Jackson Thurner Hall, University of Vermont; Henry Thomas Faunce Helm, work; Myra Love Hollis, Northern Vermont University at Lyndon; Aaron James Holmgren, Washington County Community College; Brooke Elizabeth Horniak, Southern New Hampshire University; Claudia Carol Johnson, Dean College; Leah Adele Kaliski, Hampshire College; Jeremy Michael Kawalec, work; Colombe Ishimwe Kayihura, gap year; Samuel Frank Kidder, work;Madison Dorothy Kingsbury, Southern New Hampshire University; Ellenor Marie Koppers, Champlain College; Peter Fritz LaBelle, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Garrett James Lanctot, work; Morgan Ann Lavoy, University of Rhode Island; Alexis Lillian Maxwell, New England School of Hair Design; Lincoln Alexander Milligan MacVeagh, Boston University;Carley Grace Malloy, Amherst College; Zachary Taylor Martin, work; Nicholas James Moses, Northern Vermont University at Johnson; Jordan Laine Mousley, UVM; Lawson Timothy Ouellette, Northern Vermont University at Johnson; Anna Eirini Pavlidou, Community College of Philadelphia; Nathaniel David Perron , Northern Vermont University at Lyndon; Clifford Allen Ransom, UVM; Keenan Joseph-Richard Reilly, work; Alexis Winona Rich, Plymouth State University; Christian Michael Robinson, work; Danielle CC Robinson, Plymouth State University; Isabelle Jeanne Rule-Becker, Bryn Mawr College; Elizabeth Marie Sayers, Community College of Vermont; Luyi Shi; Malcolm Quinn Silver-Van Meter, New York University; Ethan James Smith, work; Nikole Maria Spaneas, CCV; Anthony Thwing Stoffel, VTC; Clare Olivia Swanson, Sarah Lawrence College; Artemis Vasiliki Tangalidou, Old Dominion University; Dylan James Thorburn, Southern New Hampshire University; Caitlyn Alexandra Town, Colby-Sawyer College; Lauren Katherine Townsend, VTC; Katherine Rene Vaughan; Plymouth State; Chongyu Wang, Stony Brook University; Sarah Jean Ward, CCV/University of New England; Hannah Clark Waterbury, River Valley Community College; Hunter Doyle Waterbury, work; Daniel Robert Wells, UVM; Breanna Marie Williams, University of New Hampshire; Daniel James Wojcik, Northern Vermont University at Lyndon; Thomas Clifford Worth II, work; Hannah Palmer Young, CCV; Shuqin Yuan, University of Cincinnati; Hallie Grace Zens, Queen’s University.

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