Jaffrey-Rindge School District

'Pursue what makes you happy'

Conant sends 94 graduates out into the world

  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation
  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation
  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation
  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation
  • Shannia Aho laughs while listening to teacher David Dustin's recollection of the past four years during Conant High School's graduation ceremony on Friday.<br/>
  • Rebekah Chiasson, left, was one of many Conant graduates with an individually decorated mortarboard.
  • Heather Bilodeau presents a class gift to teacher and senior class advisor Bryan Field.
  • Salutotorian Mariah Maki wished her fellow graduates well in verse: "Jump out of the nest feet first and soar / Take the time to discover and explore. / I wish you all, in whatever comes your way, the best of luck / And remember us, your faraway friends, if you ever get stuck."
  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation
  • Conner Hahnl and Ethan Soper share a laugh during Conant High School's graduation celebration.
  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation
  • Tanya Amato prepares to shake hands with School Superintendent Jim O'Neill after receiving her diploma.
  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation
  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation
  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation
  • Seniors, parents, teachers, teachers, family and friends celebrated Friday at Conant High School's graduation

RINDGE — David Dustin joined the Conant High School faculty four years ago, just as the 94 students who graduated Friday were also cautiously entering a new school.

“There I was, and you were my first-ever class,” said Dustin, who the class had invited to be their guest speaker, during Friday’s graduation ceremony in the packed field house at Franklin Pierce University. “It’s incredible that four years have gone by since our path crossed. You have grown from nervous freshmen and I have grown too. After four years of thickening my skin, you will always be my first class.”

Recalling the stress of learning all their names and how to pronounce them and his fears about whether his assignments would be too easy or too challenging, Dustin said the class had taught him to set the bar high — but to make sure that height was reasonable. They also convinced him that he had made the right choice to become a teacher.

“You have inspired me to continue,” he said.

And he urged the graduates to work hard at whatever they do next and take the spirit of Conant with them.

“You can build a community in other places as well,” Dustin said. “Take risks but stay smart. Make choices that will support your life in the future. Don’t be afraid to use sass — in small doses — and remember to care for others.”

Assistant Principal Larry Pimental, who came to Conant just five years ago, said his first impression of the class of 2014 was how competitive they were.

“One thing has remained constant,” Pimental said. “You guys are a great class.”

Pimental urged the graduates to give more than they get as they move on in life. And he encouraged them to let people in their lives know how important they are. Pointing to the audience made up of parents, grandparents and friends, he told the graduates, “Wave to them. You need to do that every day. Don’t wait to tell someone that you love them.”

Pimental concluded by saying, “Keep you eyes on the prize ... Don’t let anything get in your way. Remember you’ll be a Conant High alumni for the rest of your life. Take pride in that.”

In her address, valedictorian Stacey Young urged her friends to leave behind a legacy.

“It is a good accomplishment to reach your goals, but it is an even better accomplishment to inspire others to reach their goals,” Young said. “My wish for you, Conant class of 2014, is to focus on serving others and to pursue what makes you happy. Live the life you dreamed of, not the one someone else envisioned for you, and you will feel satisfied.”

Young said her classmates should always remember their roots.

“Our paths may vary but we all began at the same place: Conant High School in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Where ever life takes you, remember where you came from and that you are part of a community that is always here for you and loves you.”

Young, who lives in Rindge and attended St. Patrick School in Jaffrey before coming to Conant, will be spending the summer as a legal intern in Sacramento, Calif, before heading to Smith College in Northampton, Mass., in the fall. She is thinking of studying either premedicine or law.

“I’m really excited to go somewhere new,” she said recently. “I am excited to be surrounded by people that are motivated. It will be great to have a fresh start and basically learn new things.”

Friday’s ceremony also marked a fresh start for three seniors who will be entering the military. English teacher David Hunt asked Shamus Donovan, Timothy Dupuis and Anthony Gonsalves to stand up and be recognized, and the three young men received a loud round of applause from both classmates and the audience.

Before the ceremony, Gonsalves said he will heading off to Air Force basic training in San Antonio in August or September. He is planning to become an air traffic controller.

“I felt this was the best way for me to get an education,” Gonsalves said. “I can’t become a pilot. I’m six feet seven; that’s a little too tall.”

Gonsalves said he expects to serve between four to six years in the Air Force.

After the graduates received the individual diplomas, Friday’s ceremony concluded with the traditional turning of the tassels and tossing of graduation caps, followed by a joyous march up the center aisle of the Pratt Auditorium. Outside, graduates shared hugs and kisses, a few of them lighting up cigars, as family members snapped pictures and a brief burst of fireworks lit the sky.

Reporter Karina Barriga contributed to this story.

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