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Graduation mourns, as well as celebrates

Kayti Burt/The Littleton Courier The Lisbon Regional School 2011 graduating class. (click for larger version)
June 09, 2011
LISBON—It was a solemn celebration last Sunday at the Lisbon Regional School where the tight-knit senior class had to make the passage into the adult world without one of their own.

"We come before you today with heavy hearts, as we celebrate our graduation, but also as we mourn the loss of a loved family member and friend," said Valedictorian Jessica Davis in a prayer for deceased classmate Conor Shea at the beginning of her speech. "We pray that you give his family strength and comfort, and that you give each one of us strength to make it through this day and the days ahead. We pray that you help us to remember him and all the great memories that we have shared."

Eighteen-year-old Shea was found unexpectedly dead in his room Sunday morning, just hours before he was set to walk across the Lisbon Regional School stage with his classmates. Social Studies Teacher and Guest Speaker Emory Younkins called the day "bittersweet," but there were no words to describe the mood set by the maelstrom of emotions in the Lisbon gymnasium Sunday afternoon, as pride, joy, and hope for the 23 graduates' bright futures clashed with shock, confusion, and intense sorrow for a future lost.

Shea never made it to his high school graduation, but he was very much there in the hearts and minds of everyone in the tight-knit Lisbon community. A moment of silence was observed at the beginning of the ceremony for the student athlete, active on both the golf and soccer teams. Shea's older brother walked in his place, receiving his diploma and lifting it into the air to cheers of support from the audience.

Though Shea's loss was very much a part of the ceremony, there were still moments of celebration. Thousands of dollars worth of scholarships were awarded to the graduating students, recognizing them for everything from their community service to academic excellence. The class boasted one National Merit Scholar, an extremely competitive national scholarship program, in Salutatorian Samantha Locke.

In her valedictory address, Davis spoke of the purpose in each of the graduates' futures.

"Whether we are going to a four-year college, two-year study program at a local college or community college, going into the military, or going into the work force, each of us has purpose," said Davis. "No matter what we do, each of us also has the opportunity to be kind, honest, and full of integrity as we interact with others. This gives value and great importance to our lives. We are all valuable, and we all need to realize that we have purpose in life."

Davis listed a few of the countless memories she shares with her classmates. From selling deflated cotton candy at a rainy homecoming to winter carnival to the senior trip to The Great Escape.

"This is an amazing class," she said. "Throughout the years, we have grown closer to each other. We are more than just classmates. We're friends. Friends, who have stood by each other through everything and were always there when needed. I can honestly say that I am going to miss each and everyone of you."

In the farewell address, Roland LaCoss spoke about the class' successes on the playing field, and how it has prepared the students for life. In the past four years, the school's boys teams have been to the final four eight times, and have won basketball and soccer state championships. They are two games away from winning the state baseball championship this year.

"There are five of us up here, including me, who still have 14 innings of high school left," LaCoss said.

Though the girls' teams have not won a championship, they have also made it to the final four an impressive three times.

"Sports are everything at Lisbon…We bleed orange and black," said LaCoss. "It's going to be hard to leave this town, with all the memories we've made."

LaCoss spoke about the struggles the students will face in college and beyond, but expressed faith in his fellow graduates.

"High school was just one giant practice to prepare us for whatever lies ahead," he said. "We made it through the regular season and now it's time for playoffs with each one of us going for a different title. I hope nobody here holds back. It's time to take everything to the next level."

Younkins urged his students to have faith in themselves, value justice, love one another, and to have hope in the future no matter what tragedies they may face.

"We need hope in the future," he said. "Remember that when things get bad and we all have tragedies in life, that's just the way life is – one of them hits us close to home today – but remember the glass is half full."

The class of 2011: Jessica Bousquet, Katelyn Boutin, Rachel Brooks, Dylan Chase, Jacob Clement, Paige Cloutier, Megan Cole, Jessica Davis, Nathan Haile, Courtney Heath, Andrew Higgins, Matthew Hubbard, Kimberly Jesseman, Roland LaCoss, Samantha Locke, Corrie Murray, James Myers, Kylee O'Shana, Conor Shea, Ericson Smith, Richard Trahan, Jacob Veilleux, Richie Veilleux, and Kayla Walker.

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