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Graduates Told Community Brings Strength



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Class President and Salutatorian Shamus Wheeler led fellow grads to their seats Photo by Debra Thornblad. (click for larger version)
June 13, 2012
BERLIN - Members of the Berlin High School Class of 2012 were glad to get confirmation of what they, and every adolescent, knows - they are smarter than their parents and teachers combined.

After all, Guy Stevers, recipient of the yearbook dedication, said, "It's taken them four years to graduate from Berlin High School. I've been trying to get out of here for 42 years."

Stevers, an English teacher at the high school, is retiring this year, after spending his entire teaching career in Berlin.

Stevers, a huge Star Wars fan, advised students to settle into a community and become involved. "It's that community that will give you the force," he said. It's you, he said, and everyone that he has surrounded himself with, that has made his life so enriching."

He ended his advice to students by saying, "God speed in your journey and may the force be with you."

Stevers was the last speaker of the day, after which students got their diplomas.

But the first speaker at the June 8 graduation was principal Gary Bisson. He began by relating a conversation he had had with Lorraine Kelley, who had been the recipient of the French Legion d'honneur, France's most prestigious award, for her service as a front-line nurse during World War II. She had received the honor the previous week at the high school.

He asked her what two things most helped her get through the trial and tribulations of life. She answered God and a sense of humor.

Both came into play one day when a 500-pound bomb from the Germans landed in the camp unexploded. Kelley went out and straddled the bomb and had her picture taken. Her son had told her that was a pretty impressive thing to do and she answered that if it had exploded he wouldn't be here.

Bisson said Kelley gave one further piece of advice about life - learn what you need to worry about, and don't worry about the things you don't.

Those thoughts are contained in a prayer called the Serenity Prayer. It goes like this.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

"I remember the pleasure of welcoming you when you first started 13 years ago," Superintendent Corinne Cascadden, formerly the principal of the Berlin elementary school, said. "Now I have the pleasure of letting you go."

"Remember who you are and where you come from," she advised students, ending by quoting from the famous Dr. Seuss book "Oh the Places You'll Go."

"It was the best of times, it was the first of times..." Valedictorian Alyssa Kinney said. "Who would have thought that quote from Charles Dickens would describe our four years of high school."

Kinney said it really was that way for her.

"We expected life to go our way. For some maybe it did play out like that, but for most there were disappointments. But we gained wisdom from this."

"We cannot always see the forest for the trees, but we always had help along the way," she said. "Regardless of difficulties, we all made it through."

While some might advise remembering just the good, "I say remember it all," she said. "Use it to carve out a place in your life. It's our choices that show who we really are. Go out into the world and choose to do something you're really proud of."

Shamus Wheeler, President of the Class of 2012 and Salutatorian, advised his fellow graduates to start right away working toward a successful life.

"Don't let your youth deter you. We are at the beginning and we can take a fresh look at everything," he said. "There will never be a better time, a time when we have so few responsibilities."

"Allow yourselves to have experiences, take that class that interests you, you never know what that knowledge may bring you later," he said.

"Do things that you like, these will inherently be the things you're good at. Do something you love and success will follow," he concluded.

School Board member Nicole Plourde gave out the diplomas. It was, as she noted a special graduation for her. Her daughter Emily was among the graduates.

"Many people have laid a foundation for your success. We ask that you take pride and remember where you came from. Work hard and always remember this is your home," she said.

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