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BHS grads head for 'long awkward part between graduation and retirement'

Salutatorian Ben Winchell steps off the stage after Principal Russ Holden awarded him with the prestigious Roland S. Kimball award for being the best all around student of the Class of 2009. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)
June 17, 2009
BELMONT — Sweat and tears marked Belmont High School's 80th commencement ceremonies Friday evening, as family and friends packed inside the steamy school gym to watch the Class of 2009 graduate.

"I know it's a little cold in here, so I asked the custodians to turn down the air conditioner a little bit, " BHS Principal Russ Holden joked at the beginning of the ceremony, which was moved inside due to forecasted of rain that never fell.

From there, the requisite speeches followed, with a good dose of sentimentality but even more laughs.

"The day has finally arrived," Class Advisor Maureen Hubble said. "Thank god."

Hubble spared the crowd by "cutting (her) speech by three minutes" due to the heat, and suggested that instead everyone go out and get a copy of "Oh, The Places You'll Go," by Dr. Seuss. She encouraged the graduates to welcome challenges, which she said would help them become smarter and stronger. She also reminded them to lean on family and friends for support.

Salutatorian Ben Winchell had a word of warning to the people already out "in the real world": beware. The Class of 2009, he said, was being released to the world.

Winchell talked about how much he's seen his peers grow over the years and, referencing his shorter stature, joked that in his case, it was "more of a mental thing." He apologized to the English department for still having a hard time remembering when to use "affect" and when to use "effect," then referred to his classmates as "survivors of the public school system."

In all seriousness, though, Winchell called the high school "a beacon of home and hospitality."

"BHS has its light on for all its graduates," he said – then added that Vice Principal Dan Clary made a good alternative to that light on a sunny day, with the sunshine reflecting at just the right angle off his head.

Valedictorian Emily Chase pointed out that until now, the students' lives had been planned out, with daily routines lined up for them.

"Now we're responsible for what happens next," she said. "(This is) the moment we take charge of our lives."

Class President Kathryn Klem admitted that she was "just a confused graduate with limited advice" and said she and her classmates were now stuck in the "long awkward part between graduation and retirement."

Klem wanted her peers to remember way back to kindergarten, "where it all started," and remember the Golden Rules. Treat others with kindness and respect, she said, and you'll go far; take a risk, and you'll go even farther.

As is tradition, three of the school's top awards were handed out during the ceremonies. Renee St. Germain received the Reverent F. W. Fitzpatrick Memorial Award, given annually to a graduating senior who has shown outstanding qualities in citizenship.

Rebecca Caron Muzzey received the Kenneth F. Muzzey Award, which honors a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding service through citizenship, service and spirit.

Finally, Winchell was given the Roland S. Kimball award for being the best all around student of the Class of 2009, based on scholarship, dependability and participation in activities for the betterment of the school.

Martin Lord Osman
Coos County Commissioners
Tilton School
Town & Country
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