Conant graduates begin adult journey

Principal David Dustin presents a diploma to Ella Weinhold.

Principal David Dustin presents a diploma to Ella Weinhold. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Salutatorian Irelynd AuCoin gives her farewell address.

Salutatorian Irelynd AuCoin gives her farewell address. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

The Class of 2024 awaits their diplomas.

The Class of 2024 awaits their diplomas. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Valedictorian Timothy MacKay gives his class address.

Valedictorian Timothy MacKay gives his class address. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Class President Hailey Dubois gives the farewell speech to her class.

Class President Hailey Dubois gives the farewell speech to her class. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

 Thomas Harvey (left) and Eli Sawyer (right) await their diplomas.

Thomas Harvey (left) and Eli Sawyer (right) await their diplomas. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

 Izabel Lazo holds a flower in Conant orange after receiving her diploma.

Izabel Lazo holds a flower in Conant orange after receiving her diploma. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

 Alexis Mayer returns to her seat after receiving her diploma.

Alexis Mayer returns to her seat after receiving her diploma. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 06-10-2024 1:55 PM

A total of 83 Conant Orioles walked the graduation stage in the Pratt Auditorium on Friday night to receive their diplomas and begin their lives in the adult world.

“We’ve all accomplished one of the major milestones in our lives -- high school graduation. This is a major step in the journey of each of our lives, and should be recognized its significance,” said Valedictorian Timothy MacKay. “We’ve all worked hard for this day, and our work did not go to waste. However, our graduation is not an end goal, but a beginning of a larger journey of life, where doors of opportunity are open to all of us.”

MacKay spoke of the challenges faced and the willpower needed for his classmates to enter their high school careers amid the challenges of COVID, saying that graduation is already a challenge, without the additional stumbling blocks of remote learning.

But, he said, it is those experiences that shaped who they are today.

“Each obstacle we’ve overcome over the past 18 years or so has shaped us into the individuals we are today,” MacKay said. Whether it was learning to cook and bake without starting fires, or learning that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, MacKay said the knowledge given to them by Conant will carry them forward. And he encouraged his class not to let their graduation be the end of their education, in whatever form that took.

“One tip I would leave my fellow graduates is to keep learning, whether you continue your education into college, take up a trade, go into a new career, let us carry with us the lessons we learned, the friendships we’ve forged and the memories we’ve created,” MacKay said.

Class President Hailey Dubois said the class had a rocky start to their high school career, losing their eighth-grade graduation events to COVID, and faced those challenges together.

“We have shown it doesn’t matter what is happening in our lives and the world around us, but rather how we chose to spend it, which has made our class rather unforgettable,” Dubois said. “Going into high school, I really had no idea what the future of our class would look like, at a time when our life was so unpredictable. Each and every one of you have worked immensely hard to get where you are today.”

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Dubois encouraged her classmates to embrace new things, and try things that scared them.

“The worst that can happen from saying ‘yes’ is nothing to the advantages that come from it. Whatever journey you begin after tonight, I encourage you to start switching ‘no’ with a ‘yes.’ Because it will truly bring more meaning to your life, and you only have one, after all,” Dubois said.

Salutatorian Irelynd AuCoin (who assured her classmates that her many tardies were only due to her night job as a crime fighter) said the class has come a long way together, from being freshmen terrified of the seniors, who had it all figured out, to being those seniors themselves.

“We knew in the back of our minds that would one day be us, but we never expected that future to get here so fast,” AuCoin said.

She said looking back at their time in Conant, few students might remember how to solve for X, but the memories they made with their peers will stay with them.

“I finally understand why everyone says graduation is bittersweet. Years of memories rushing through our heads as we walk up to get our diplomas, and the lingering thought that when we leave this gym tonight, we are officially adults in the real world,” AuCoin said.

The chosen guest speaker this year was Morgan Baker, the family and consumer science teacher. Baker advised the class that no matter what their future held, to roll with the punches.

“The greatest piece of advice I have for you is things aren’t always going to work out the way you planned, and that is OK,” Baker said.

His own journey, he said, involved working multiple jobs, some terrible, to make ends meet, and a stint in a homeless shelter before friends assisted him and he was able to return to school for a master’s degree in education. Even then, he said he intended to teach social studies, not hand out knives to a group of 30 middle-schoolers and eat their undercooked pizza, as he found himself doing the first year he taught at Conant.

“I know it can be hard to find hope in life when you feel like your world is crumbling around you,” Baker said. “In your life, you may be faced with some overwhelming situations that you don’t know how to handle. But some of the greatest achievements in life happen when you face those situations and make it through.”

The Class of 2024 were high achievers, said Principal David Dustin.

“You have leaders among you who have pushed the envelope of what can be done in service, community-building, academics and sports. More of this class applied for college on NH Applies Day than we have ever seen before. More of you pushed yourself to earn the distinction of NH Scholars than we have ever seen before. More of you completed CTE pathways, or conducted internships than we have seen for many years,” Dustin said.

That drive, he said, would carry them far.

“You have shown us the potential you have shown us as individuals and as a class, and all of us are excited to see how that potential translates into reality in the future,” said Dustin.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT. For more photos, go to ledgertranscript.com.