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Loss springs strength at Groveton graduation

June 18, 2011
GROVETON — Twenty-nine Groveton Eagles donning robes of black and purple strode across the school gym for the last time as high school students Friday and each had a purple ribbon pinned to their chests in memory of former classmate Danny Ward.

When Valedictorian Ethan Emerson stepped up to the podium to give his speech, no one in the audience could have expected what soon followed. Ethan raised his speech in the air and promptly ripped it into confetti before tossing it aside. Emerson started off by stating that Ward, who died in a car crash on Wednesday, was one of his best friends and felt a different speech was in order.

"Listen to your heart, always stand up for what you believe in," said Emerson, "that's what [Ward] did, so that's what I am going to do."

Speaking like a master orator with only his passion and a few scrawled notes to guide him, Emerson captivated the crowd. The speech started with the dread of change, talked about the wisdom achieved from adversity, a perspective gained and inner strength with a dusting of humor all around.

"Coming into this school year I thought this was going to be the worst year of my life," said Emerson. "I was absolutely dreading it, playing the last soccer game the last basketball game, the last baseball game, the last prom. I hated the thought of making big decisions that would affect the rest of my life. I was afraid of having bills, but don't we all."

The speech that Emerson would have read wouldn't have gone past a minute and a half, but the one he ended up giving lasted about ten minutes with the audience hanging on every word.

"This past year really sucked, but I'm glad it happened," he said. "I have learned the most valuable life lessons from it...I took a long look in the mirror and said 'who the hell do you think you are? Nothing to be happy about?...you should be ashamed, look at you, you have everything, good family good friends good health and extremely good looks.' Nobody else can change you, you have to be willing to change yourself...because for the first time in our lives the only person stopping you from being all you can be, is yourself."

Emerson also held up a yearbook signed by the class of 2011 to be given to Ward's father at Monday's funeral service.

Salutatorian Jessica McKenzie's speech also carried the idea that in order to achieve great things one has to believe in one's self and carried the metaphor of life being a journey to by charted by the choices we make.

"Eleanor Roosevelt once said, 'The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams'," said McKenzie. "So as you step out to meet the world with your mind prepared and your skills tuned, I urge you to set your direction with a positive attitude and strong spirit. It is during the times of success that people will know our name and it is during times of trouble that people will know our character."

The third honors speech from Kelley Collins was the lighter of the three nostalgically looking at the childhood excursions of the past.

"We all made memories with each other that we will never forget, and that will last us a lifetime," said Collins. "Even though were the class that got cheated out of everything, like nature's class room, the whale watch in sixth grade, Six Flags, The Christmas Carol, or even the Granby Zoo. We do have the times like Hobo Railroad, Kuzko the iguana in fourth grade, the corn maze, all the times at Canobee Lake, stalking the fish at Nash Stream, or even The Sea Coast Science Center in third Grade. We will take these memories everywhere with us in life, no matter how far away we go from each other, we will all look back on these special moments that created who we have become."

AJ Coleman
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Varney Smith
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