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Eighth graders leave ACS behind

MEMBERS OF THE Alton Central School’s newly-promoted eighth grade class exit the gymnasium following their promotion ceremony Monday night. Brendan Berube. (click for larger version)
June 16, 2010
ALTON — The Alton Central School's eighth grade class of 2010 took the first step toward high school Monday night, sharing fond memories of their elementary school careers during the school's annual Eighth Grade Promotion ceremony.

Welcoming parents, friends, and fellow students to the ceremony, Principal Bonnie Jean Kuras reflected on how she had shared a "common collaboration and a common triumph" with this year's eighth grade class, calling the students' constant determination to create good out of negativity "nothing short of inspiring."

Leaving the departing eighth graders with a quote from A.A. Milne's classic children's book "Winnie the Pooh" — "Promise me you'll always remember: you are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think" — Kuras encouraged them to take on their new adventures with the courage and confidence she had seen them develop over the past few years.

"Cheers to you," she said.

Brooke Dame, who served as president of Alton Central's National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) chapter this year, said she could hardly believe she and her classmates had reached the threshold of high school after nine years of hard work.

Although some of the eighth graders receiving diplomas this year had been there the whole time, and others moved to Alton barely a month ago, she said, "We are all here now, and we will all move on together."

Reminding her classmates of the help they had received along the way from their families, their teachers, and from each other, Dame said she had heard several teachers call this year's eighth grade class the most helpful they had seen.

"We are a class of friends," she said, reflecting on the fact that her classmates had always been there for each other through good times and bad.

Dame also urged her classmates to take a moment to reflect on how their parents and other family members had helped them.

Commenting that high school, which once seemed unreachable, was "now reachable" for her class, Dame gave a great deal of credit for her class' success to the their teachers, who she said gave them space, but were always there to help if they ran into trouble, and always made the learning experience "as interesting and fun as they could."

"They have left some sort of mark on us," she added.

While the hard times are about to begin for this year's eighth grade class, the good times are also just beginning, Dame said, adding that she and her classmates still have time to be themselves and enjoy their teenage years before the time will come for them to make life-changing decisions, such as what college they plan to attend.

Dame concluded her speech by congratulating her classmates on taking "the first step into being the [Prospect Mountain High School] Class of 2014," prompting a burst of cheers and applause from the departing eighth graders.

Reflecting on how "it all started in the town of Alton, New Hampshire" in a small school that was still big enough to allow each of its students to excel, out-going student council president Emily Gubitose reminisced about how simple life was when she and her classmates set out on their educational path in Kindergarten.

Back then, she said, there were still monsters under the bed to be afraid of, and snack time to look forward to every morning.

All that changed, however, when the Twin Towers fell on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, she said, explaining that her class realized after witnessing the terrorist attacks and the way the adults around them reacted that "our nice world would never be the same."

Recalling some of the key moments that had defined her class' educational experiences at Alton Central — a field trip in first grade during which they were introduced to creatures of the sea; a visit from a native of India who introduced the students to her country's culture; a family tragedy that affected one of their classmates in sixth grade, inspiring them to organize a series of fundraisers — Gubitose said she and her classmates had left behind "a lot of accomplishments," among them the Winni Walk of Wonder, the development of a new morning news program, and champion basketball and softball teams.

"It all started in the town of Alton, New Hampshire," she said again, reminding her classmates that, "life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."

Out-going NJHS class representative Sean Cassidy, who moved to Alton from Peabody, Mass. five years ago, said he never expected to feel as welcomed or to become as much a part of the community as he did during his time at Alton Central.

Sports played a major role in that transition, he said, explaining that his participation on the school's sports teams enabled him to forge strong friendships with fellow players and benefit from the leadership skills instilled by his coaches.

His involvement in the book drives and fundraisers sponsored by the NJHS, he said, led to the development of a social awareness that he will carry with him into high school.

"A recognition of the needs of others is important, but acting on that recognition is critical," he said, adding that his experiences at Alton Central taught him to act.

He also appreciated the fact that members of his class were allowed to have individual tastes, he said, explaining that as a jock who also enjoys art, he was grateful to see that his classmates were taught to observe and appreciate each other's varying interests, rather than poke fun at them.

"I've grown up a lot," he said in conclusion, adding that the lessons, connections, and friends he made at Alton Central had prepared him for the changes he will face in the future.

While they said their teachers had given them both "high hopes" for high school, out-going class representatives Ian Rouleau and Ryan Creamer said they will always remember their "roots" at Alton Central.

Wishing the current seventh grade class the best of luck at filling their shoes, Creamer and Rouleau advised them to take full advantage of their eighth grade year (which Creamer said "goes by fast"), and not to waste it by looking toward high school.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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