Conant Class of 2022 walks in emotional ceremony


Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 06-13-2022 2:30 PM

Conant High School’s Class of 2022 graduation ceremony ended with an exuberant fireworks display, but the brightest sparks at the Orioles’ athletic facility Friday night were the 83 cap-and-gown-clad seniors ready to blaze their own paths into the world. 

Conant High School Principal David Dustin acknowledged the tough journey this senior class had in their four years, three of which were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Class of 2022, thank you for your leadership and helping to build this community,” Dustin said. “As you get ready to leave now and move on to the next phase of your lives, I urge each one of you to continue the spirit of service and the love of community that you’ve shown. Go forward, strive to reach your goals, make your life meaningful, and do so with the knowledge that we’ll always be proud of you when you do.”

Math teacher Shawn Lucas, the student-selected guest speaker, wished the outgoing students well. 

“No matter your path, I ask that you approach it with the same kindness, dignity, grace and wisdom as you did your four years at Conant,” Lucas said. “Take those things, along with your talent, your genius and your sense of humor. Take that which makes you unique and affect change in the world.”

Class officers Bella Hayes, Karel Wolterbeek and Gianna Sangermano announced the senior class gift, a scholarship in honor of Alejandro Menjivar, a member of the class who died in 2019. The inaugural scholarship was awarded to Abigail Horne.  

Hayes spoke about her late friend Menjivar during her salutatorian speech. The two bonded over many things, including their shared Latin heritage.

“Los Latinos permanecemos cerca siempre,” Hayes recalled, or “Us Latinos stay close always.” 

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While factors like a classmate’s death and a global pandemic – along with the myriad other difficult situations high school students face – forced the Class of 2022 to grow up quickly, Hayes reminded the graduates that they were just that, kids, and urged them not to lose their childlike wonder at the joys of the world. 

“Don’t let that little kid inside of you leave too soon,” Hayes said. “Let little things excite you and let little things inspire you, just as they did years and years ago.”

Hayes will attend the University of Chicago and major in astrophysics with a minor in astrology. 

Sangermano was the class valedictorian; like fellow class officers Wolterbeek and Hayes, she was a student-athlete who found the mental capacity to carry a well-rounded schedule while excelling at the top of her class academically, spurning any preconceived notions of what kind of person can be valedictorian.

“My GPA matters less to me than the importance of the person that I have grown into,” Sangermano said. “I’m more proud that I have learned how to work hard and go after what I am passionate about, that I have improved my personal character.”

 Homeschooled for majority of her educational career, Sangermano said the freedom of choice that afforded her allowed her to excel and take joy in learning. 

“I was fortunate that, being an active participant in my learning, I was passionate about what I was doing every day,” Sangermano said.

Sangermano will attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute to study biomedical engineering on a pre-med track, fitting for the math whiz who called her math classes the “cherry on top” of her school day. 

Wolterbeek, the class president, is a former Mountain Shadows School student, and his speech recounted his first terrifying day in public school, which took a quick turn for the better as he met the close friends who would be with him for his high school journey in the four years he called Conant home. Wolterbeek is headed out of Jaffrey and up to St. Lawrence University in the fall, where he plans to major in environmental studies along with digital film and media.

“As melancholy as it may be, I can’t wait to see what the future may hold for us,” Wolterbeek said.