Winnisquam Regional High School’s 2012 valedictorian, Nathan Foster, addresses his classmates and their families at graduation ceremonies last Saturday evening. Seated behind Foster are Superintendent Dr. Tammy Davis, School Board Chair Michael Gagnon, Principal Dr. Ronna Caderette and graduation speaker Denise Lessard. (Donna Rhodes (click for larger version)
June 13, 2012TILTON — Graduation at Winnisquam Regional High School was full of poignant thoughts and quotations, but a song written by Leslie Bricusse and sung by the Chamber Choir in honor of the Class of 2012 perhaps summed up the feelings of many as the evening's ceremonies unfolded: "When the day comes that I must say goodbye to you, it's the last thing in life I'll ever want to do. I know it has to be, but it's so hard for me, letting go."
Yet that is exactly why the 107 graduating seniors, their families and loved ones gathered in the school's gymnasium last weekend — to begin the process of letting go.
Dr. Ronna Caderette said she was thrilled to have served as their principal over the past three years, and recalled a gift class members had given her earlier as a teacher in the district. It quoted words from a song that, while she joked was not written in proper English, said a lot about their determination,
"Ain't nothing gonna break my stride, nobody's gonna hold me down. I've got to keep on moving," Caderette read. "You've held true to that until this moment. You entered here in stride, you set the pace. Now keep moving toward what life holds for you."
Class president Hannah Willcutt continued the poetic theme in her welcome by quoting lines from Theodor Geisel's poem, "Oh the Places You'll Go!"
This year's valedictorian address was given by Nathan Foster. Foster said he could not believe he was actually standing before a large crowd giving the final speech of his high school years.
"It seems like just yesterday that I was being dropped off for kindergarten by my mom — now, here I am giving this speech," Foster said.
He said the possibilities outside the confines of the walls at Winnisquam High School were many, and urged his classmates to take advantage of whatever comes their way in the future. If anyone was hesitant, however, he understood.
He ended by sharing his own true feelings.
"A few weeks ago, I said I couldn't wait for it (graduation) to be over, but now that it's here I'm actually kind of sad," he said.
Introduced as the "highly energetic" social studies teacher, Denise Lessard was asked by the class to give the graduation address, and, true to her nature, she was enthusiastic in her message to the graduates. Lessard chose to quote the students rather than famous authors, and said she has shared her "famous banana bread" and stories of her life with them, but has also learned much from their own personal stories.
Through the years, she said she has heard how some of the graduates defied incredible odds to be where they were, while some carried the weight of the world on their shoulders, and still others were not sure which way to turn in their lives. Lessard said they shared debates, good discussions and sometimes a good laugh or cry.
"You've shared your stories with me. I cannot help but love you, and I want you to embrace life and express all that's within you now," she said.
Her final advice was also inscribed on cards for each of them, titled "Keep Your Positive Circle."
On the cards, she reminded each of the graduates to pay attention, keep learning, take time to reflect, express thanks and be positive.
"Surround yourself with those who inspire and support you," Lessard wrote.
In the closing moments of graduation, salutatorian Felicia Demers listed the many accomplishments of her classmates and ended with words from the Jamie Lee Curtis' poetic work, "Today I Feel Silly."
After reading through the gamut of emotions included in Curtis' poem, Demers said any emotions are understandable on such a momentous occasion as graduation.
"No matter how you feel today, it's okay," she told her classmates. "I just hope you'll experience the feelings of success."
Final awards were also presented during the ceremonies, and Athletic Director Rick Heath made the presentation for both the Activity Council and Athletic Council awards. Demers received the Activity Council trophy and Taylor O'Connor and Patrick Regan were this year's female and male recipients for the Athletic Council trophy.
School board Chairman Michal Gagnon presented Daley Buckwell with the School Board Community Service Award, and the 2012 Daniel Stockwell Educational Award was given to Hannah Willcutt by Dr. Caderette.
Allison Atherton made the final presentation of the prestigious Pucci Award, honoring Alfred Pucci of the Class of 1948. That trophy also was awarded to Demers.