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"Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning"

WMRHS sends off Class of 2020

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter

It was a relaxed environment to say the least during the socially distant graduation ceremony held at WMRHS on June 12. (Photo by Tara Giles) (click for larger version)
June 18, 2020
WHITEFIELD — The White Mountains Regional High School class of 2020 broke with tradition along with many other schools across the country after holding a socially distant graduation ceremony on June 12.

The scene Friday evening was very relaxed and parents and students alike seemed calm. Families arrived in waves, while the graduation class stayed six feet apart throughout the event.

The theme of the night amongst the seniors was acknowledgement of how the current pandemic has instilled a new sense of appreciation. It was noticeable that this group of seniors genuinely appreciated being in the same place, together for one last time and that this situation most definitely created an unspoken bond amongst the class.

Superintendent Marion Anastasia greeted the seniors, announcing "The WMRSD School Board thinks that the Class of 2020 is a very special class because, you will be remembered as a pivotal moment in the country's revolution and history, you represent great respect, compassion, and the ability to move forward, with the understanding that one person can change the world for the better. You signify a coming together, with deep empathy, for the well-being of others. You give us hope that there will be unity and appreciation for people in all walks of life. You've proven that gratitude, inspiration, and endurance during difficult times is possible." 

Principal Mike Berry shared his thoughts, stating "Your energy, talents and motivation will carry you far, but take from your time here the idea that it is never enough to be satisfied with the status quo. Do not forget that growth requires compromise and change within yourself which will not always be comfortable."

He added some things that can be controlled such as, treating others well, being self reliant, sharing a positive mindset and to take the high road.

"The high road is doing the right thing, even if it may not be easy or popular with the majority," said Berry.

Co-Valedictorian Haile Hicks addressed her class, commenting "I think I speak for all of us when I say that this wasn't what we had imagined as freshmen or even middle schoolers when we thought of our graduation."

Hicks empathized with her fellow seniors, but also offered some humor, joking "I know many of you feel shorted, like the best and most memorable part of high school was taken from us, but there were some benefits of being the class of 2020. First off, our senior capstone presentations were virtual, and I think we were all thankful for that."

Hicks went on to thank Covid-19 for the chance to slow down, spend time with family, and to really focus on being thankful for the little things.

"My very brave dad attempted to teach me how to rototill my garden on the tractor, which I had never driven before. I hope you all had as much fun as I did making new, different, and lasting memories during this unconventional time," said Hicks.

Co-Valedictorian Amber Gillespie used her time at the mic to tell her peers how proud she is of them, and highlighted the historical moment.

"Due to COVID-19, we are creating our own traditions and our own happiness," she said. "That is what life is all about. Finding ways to maneuver your struggles and create joy in your life."

She talked about how her late brother Max has inspired her, and left her class with a final note: "If you take anything from this speech, I want you to remember this. Each day you live, you are creating a story. This will be the most important story you will ever create. So as you carry on through life, don't be afraid to take risks. Buy that car, eat that burger, sleep in on Sundays. I hope you all find what makes you happy in life. Once you find that thing, don't give it up."

Honors Speaker Miles Wharton touched on community with his oration, stating "The number of people in our class who have been in school with the same people since kindergarten, or even preschool, is mind boggling. It's such a normal thing where we live, but as I sat and thought about it more, I realized that it is an absolutely unique experience to have."

Wharton added, "Now I have no idea if that is a good thing or not, but it is certainly special. We have all benefited greatly from these lifelong relationships, and we are fortunate in our ability to create such lasting connections."

President of the senior class Makenna Allen, talked about the wonder that is "Peter Pan."

"The story of the children who would forever stay young at heart has always resonated with me," Allen said. "To be a child at heart, to face every event and obstacle in your life with the same joyous adolescence we had when we were in elementary school. Now, as most of us face adulthood, moving on to the next chapters in our lives, I'm telling you to never grow up. Never stop jumping to hit the top of the door frame every time you enter a room. Never forget the feeling you got the first time you stepped on stage or when you made the shot you never thought you would reach."

Allen added, "Our bodies get older, our responsibilities heavier, but our hearts carry the child that we all have inside of us. To live will be an awfully big adventure, but life is only as fun as you make it. So enjoy all the little things in life that you can, and take every opportunity that you have to be childish."

She stressed, "Whether you plan to swim with mermaids, fly in the clouds, fight with pirates, or just go to a university, I hope that you are happy. And when you leave here today, don't say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting. I don't want anyone to forget the years we spent growing up here."

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