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North Country Charter Academy graduates 59

North Country Charter Academy graduate Tyler Robinson of Colebrook posed for a moment with Academy principal Lisa Lavoie at the June 7 graduation ceremony held at the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield. (Photo by Edith Tucker) (click for larger version)
June 16, 2010
WHITEFIELD — Fifty-nine students in the Class of 2010 at the North Country Charter Academy (NCCA) earned diplomas during the just-completed academic year.

Forty-four of the graduating seniors from both NCCA's classroom sites in Littleton and Lancaster marched to the strains of Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" on Monday evening, June 7, into a large three-peaked white tent for an joyful ceremony held on the grounds of the Mountain View Grand.

State Education Commissioner Dr. Virginia "Ginny" Barry told the cap-and-gowned students that their graduation was one of "the amazing moments of their lives," that was a testament to their persistence — "the will to stick with something that is important." The sense of persistence that each graduate has developed, plus initiative, curiosity, and a reluctance to conform to all rules all the time, will help them all meet further challenges, especially in a rapidly evolving technological world, Dr. Barry told the Class of 2010.

"North Country Charter Academy is the new global knowledge academy," she said, adding that she had come last June to the 2009 graduation on her first day on the job. "Bright, artistic, caring, and compassionate," is how Dr. Barry described the graduating seniors to a tentful of proud parents, family members, and friends as well as area school superintendents and principals. Since less than 11 percent of the world's population graduates from high school, she also described them as being among the "privileged."

"With 11 charter schools, New Hampshire is a leader," she said. Their success underscores that not every student learns the same way and that there are multiple pathways to learning.

Dr. Barry also praised NCCA principal Lisa Lavoie for providing outstanding leadership.

The ceremonies marked the Academy's sixth graduation for a nontraditional school with a self-paced, computer-based curriculum. The school has students in class for only three hours each day, plus an extended learning opportunity requirement to hold a job or perform community service.

Nine area SAU superintendents established NCCA in 2004, working collaboratively with the North Country Education Services (NCES).

District 1 Executive Councilor Ray Burton of Bath praised the then-area superintendents who "stuck their necks out" and started the Academy when federal funds became available. He noted that he had been at every NCCA graduation since its first but that there "was not going to be a last," this because it would never be closed.

Cumulatively, the Academy has had 213 "success stories," Councilor Burton explained, by providing a setting in which at-risk students or those who had already dropped out of school can earn a high school diploma and gain self-confidence and a sense of purpose.

Councilor Burton, a former school teacher himself, said, "This is success, success, success; it's a great evening; let's celebrate!"

Students and parents delivered testimonials about how the Academy meets student needs.

Former Lin-Wood student graduating senior Victoria Camacho of Lincoln, in a statement read for her by NCCA Director of Operations Pat Kelly, explained what a negative experience attending a traditional high school had been for her, citing both its "drama and stress." The plus of spending three hours a day in front of a computer is that it involved neither drama nor stress, allowing her to work at her own pace and get back on track to earning a diploma.

Parent Steve Carter of Franconia said that the Academy had come to the "emotional rescue" of his family by providing an uncommon "commonsense" approach to earning high school credits.

Nicole DiChristopher of Bethlehem said she had seriously considered dropping out of Profile High School before a space opened up for her at NCCA, where her teachers were "supportive and encouraging."

James Elliott of North Woodstock said that NCCA had been his "educational savior," allowing him to learn at his own pace, free from bullying and teacher favoritism.

Anthony "Tony" Gilding of Whitefield thanked his teachers — Lancaster site Director Scott "Mr. K." Kleinschrodt and Debra Ryder — for helping him reach his goal of earning a diploma, which he needs if he is to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.

Senior Darcee King of Lancaster, senior Derek O'Donnell and his mother, Kristi, both of Gorham, and Annamarie Sloss, mother of graduating senior Joseph Moritz, both of St. Johnsbury, Vt., also described how their education at NCCA had been positive and life-transforming.

Several awards were also presented.

Brittany Seelye of Berlin won the Trustee's Chairperson Award, presented by board chairman Kate Cassady who read the citation that lauded her achievements calling them "a true testament to what can be accomplished if you believe in yourself and are willing to work hard to overcome what might seem to be insurmountable obstacles."

Both David Gamel of Stark and Keith Rich of North Woodstock won Presidential Academic Excellence Awards.

Both Derek O'Donnell of Gorham and Rachel Clos Roberts of Littleton won Presidential Academic Achievement Awards.

Nathaniel Carter of Franconia was to have been presented with a Certificate of Enlistment for the U. S. Army, plus a check for $63,048 for his future enrollment in college, but the presenter apparently misunderstood the time or the place. Despite the snafu, Nathaniel is heading off to the Army with a guarantee of funds for higher education when he completes his service.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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