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“Thanks, COVID!” Jaffrey teen celebrates birthday with drive-by parade at Conant High School

  • Maria Dupuis rushes over to hug Isabelle Tenters during a birthday parade for Tenters at Conant High School on Wednesday, April 29. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Friends organized an 18th birthday parade for Isabelle Tenters of Jaffrey on Wednesday, April 29. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Friends organized an 18th birthday parade for Isabelle Tenters of Jaffrey on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. (BEN CONANT / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/3/2020 2:11:36 PM

About 40 carfuls of friends and community members circled the Conant High School parking lot Wednesday afternoon to wish Isabelle Tenters of Jaffrey a happy 18th birthday. Tenters watched from the sidewalk as the parade drove by, waving and shouting back as friends hung out the sunroofs with signs or waved from convertibles.

“It was kind of overwhelming – but in a good way,” Tenters said. The Conant senior said she’d been going “stir crazy” since remote learning kicked in; with other big events like prom, graduation and the like canceled or uncertain due to the threat of COVID-19, celebrating Tenters’ birthday was a priority for her friends. 

“Eighteen is an important birthday,” said fellow Jaffrey teen Maria Dupuis, who organized the parade, “and I wanted to make sure Isabelle’s was special – and especially because she wasn’t able to be at school with all her friends like she had in years past. Since we weren’t able to make memories in the traditional way, I still wanted to make sure that this would be a birthday Isabelle would never forget.”

Cruising the high school hallways in her wheelchair or making baskets for the unified basketball team, Tenters is a beloved member of the Conant community. But before Wednesday’s parade, her family didn’t know just how many supporters she had. 

“After her birthday, between all the signs that people made for the yard, the parade that Maria organized, I was feeling like we live in a really awesome community,” said Tenters’ mother Nicolle. “I hadn’t realized how many lives she’s affected, how many people support her.”

It was a memorable day for Tenters, and a fitting celebration. Perhaps the joy will help outweigh what Tenters and all of her classmates will miss this spring, the series of transformative events that help usher young men and women from one phase to the next. 

Tenters said she’d been especially looking forward to going to Conant’s prom this spring; she’d already picked out her dress and unveiled it at a weekend retreat for girls with spina bifida in early March, where they discussed hair and makeup tips for the big dance. And following that, of course, high school graduation.

“I was looking forward to going across the stage getting my diploma,” Tenters said. 

After a long journey through elementary, middle, and high school, Tenters wasn’t the only one looking forward to a celebration of that hard work. 

“The celebrating of all her academic achievements is huge because she has worked really hard on her academics, maintained good grades,” Nicolle Tenters said. “Not being able to recognize that is kind of a bummer.”

Tenters is on an Individualized Education Program, which means she’ll likely be tied to Conant for a transitional year in the 2020-21 school year, maybe giving her another shot at some of the senior rites of passage that are still up in the air for the class of 2020. No matter what happens, Tenters will always have that sunny April afternoon when the coronavirus forced her friends to get creative.

“Thanks, COVID!” Tenters said. 


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