PETERBOROUGH — In a ceremony marked by profound declarations from a student speaker and one especially emotional moment, nearly 150 seniors turned their tassels on ConVal Regional High School’s football field Saturday morning.
After introductory remarks from Principal Gib West and class president Daisy Young, salutatorian Rachel Hurley urged her peers to remember the “wonderful little memories” that made them smile over the years.
Hurley explained that she would be leaving the ceremony early with a few other seniors to compete in the New England Championships for track and field in Maine, and as she left the stage the crowd cheered and wished her luck.
Valedictorian Ryan B. Beal opened his speech by posing an idea that sounded far-fetched on the surface.
“Whoever told you to dream big was a liar,” he said. “Hear me out.”
Aspirations give a sense of direction, and that’s important, Beal said, but there’s also danger in elevating those goals to unrealistic levels.
“If we allow too many of our dreams to grow in this way — if we dream too big, too much — we risk being disappointed because no matter how great our accomplishments we will risk falling short,” he said.
Beal also warned against spending the days dreaming about a future while days pass. He encouraged graduates to stay grounded in the present as they move on with their lives, and to look up from their phones every so often to enjoy the world around them.
“There is so much to experience; it would be a shame to miss it,” Beal said.
Also emphasizing a need to slow down, Anna C. McGuiness stepped to the podium as the student speaker.
“Ever since I was little there was an urgency in me that has only been encouraged by school, which tells us to go faster, work harder, do better,” she said.
Many times, she said, she felt like “a dancer acting on muscle memory, a performer putting on an act of my life, so focused on hitting the beats that I never questioned what was waiting for me when the music stopped.”
When work comes before passion and relationships, McGuiness said it’s difficult to enjoy a fulfilling life that leaves room for kindness. She recalled a time she saw a woman drop all of her groceries in a store.
“And it would’ve been so easy for me to stop, to be nice and just help her. But I was on my way to a study session for an AP test next, and I was worried that I would be late and miss it if I paused too long.”
And so she left the store without helping the woman, concerned about “skipping a beat” in her hurried world.
“I lived my life in these small, infinitesimally fast moments, and I began to question: Am I a good person, or am I just living a construct of a good life? Are the people around me really so incidental to me?”
In slowing down, McGuiness said she’s come to value the people who take the time to care about others, whether that’s a kind driver who lets someone make a difficult left turn or “the man who yelled ‘bless you’ at me from two aisles over at Target.”
These “real, human moments” reveal what really matters, she said, calling on her peers as well as their friends and family to be those people who care.
“You will get caught up in that dance and you will think you know all the motions. But you will trip and the music will stop, and nothing will add up how you thought it would,” McGuiness said.
“It can be scary to take a moment, to fall out of step,” she continued. “… The world is full of love. It is up to you to be brave enough to stand still and ask for it.”
The crowd at the football field erupted in applause as most rose to their feet.
Then Sarah Grossi presented the Faculty and Staff Award to Leah M. Zaluki-Stone, revealing the name at the end of her remarks. But Grossi’s voice tightened as tears welled in her eyes.
“Even when faced with tragedy, this student was still thinking of others less fortunate and fulfilling commitments previously made for them,” Grossi said.
Zaluki-Stone’s mother, Amy J. Zaluki-Stone, died unexpectedly April 16, according to her obituary. She was 53.
“This student is truly one of the strongest people I know,” Grossi said. “She wants to be a teacher, and someday we would all be lucky to call her our co-worker.”
Zaluki-Stone joined Grossi on stage and embraced her. Her father, Douglas Stone, met her as she walked back to her seat and hugged her, too.
To send off the seniors before they crossed the stage, chemistry teacher Moira Milne used the platform to give a final assignment: addressing climate change by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.
“The due date is very soon, because planet earth will not allow for any re-dos,” she said. “The breaking point is in the air: this is the most important assignment of your life. … Choosing no action is not an option.”
Kelley Lillian Akerley, Ian Carl Aldrich, Caitlyn Marie Badejo, Sonja Cooksey Badrawy, Jade Kelly Bailey, Ryan Benson Beal, Darryl Matthew Bennett, Jordan Clifton Alexander Bernier, Nicholas Edward Bernier, Justin Russell Berry, Sean Dylan Boggis, Max Thomas Boisvert, Emmanuel Callahan Bowman, Leo John Boyer, Kylie Erin Boyle, Kylee Renee Brown, Duncan Harris Cahoon, Jeremy Robert Callahan, Lindsey Carolyn Carey, Magnus Wade Carlton, Marissa Lynn Caruth, Rachel Weston Cass, Hayley Marie Cheviot, Taylor Ashton Cilley, Jackson Laurence Clark, Jaclyn Jo Clark, Chloe Elizabeth Costello, Mackenzie Ann Costello, Evan Bailey Coyne, Miranda Leigh Craig, Joseph Michael Cutting, Maxell James Davie, Austin Michael Davison, Liana Patricia Day, Cote Mathew Devine, Simon Sulver Doerr, Samantha Jordan Donahue, Thomas Keith Donahue, Corrine Elizabeth Dragon, Isabel Catherine Dreher, Ryan Michael Drew, Austin James Eddy, , Ruthana Marie Ellis, Eliza Mackenzie Fiore,
Benjamin Isaac Garfinkle, Augustus Tyde Samuel George, Anna June Gombas, Laquea Marie Hall, Savanna Marie Hall, Shayna Michelle Hanley, Cheyenne Autumn Heinselman, Benjamin Michael Henry, Caitlin Kelley Howland, Carter Russell Hunt, Rachel Frances Hurley, Alyssa Marie Janoch, Molly Anne Janoch, Taylor Lynn Jarest, Hannah Alexis Johnson, Trevor Matthew Johnson, Jonathan Diego Juarez, Jillian Lan Karlicek, Deanna Whitney Kashulines, Nadia Veronica Kazlauskas, Savannah Inez Kersbergen, Carly Mabel Kimball, Matthew William Kimball, Natalie Jean LaFleur, Isabelle Rose Laskey-Rigrod, Izabelle Avry Leahigh, Kyle Albert Lombardi, Morgen Connor Luke, Paris Lily MacKeigan, Megan Hayley MacLaren, Matthew Robert Mattil, Anna Corinne McGuiness, Riley Cooper McPherson, Evan John Merwede, Schuyler Elizabeth Michalak, Colman Joseph Momenee, Jada Irie Moore, Maggie Winslow Morison, Olivia Taylor Julia Mullins, Sarah Meili Newell, Cormac William Walsh Newman, Tyler Allan Nims, Nicholas James Noke, CT Rainbow Trout O’Connor, Zachary James Obuchowski, Asha Ohira, Faith Ohnesorge, Hunter David Park, Rachyl Elizabeth Parslow, Michael Joseph Perry, Julia Ann Peters, Tyler Joseph Phaneuf, Fiona Louise Pieterse, Callie Joy Plourde, John William Plourde, Edmund Alexander Pope, Kyla Mae Provencher-Baird, Thomas Jeffrey Putnam, Clara Quintanilha,
Zachary Steven Rajaniemi, Kayla Marie Rautiola, Colin James Rector, Jasmin Willow Reed, Max Joseph Richard, Sean Michael Roberts, Jacob Samuel Rubin, Daniell Orin Rupp, Amber Ann Marie Ruston, Shaiman Elijah Salisbury, George Kenneth Sanderson, Kyle Andrew Shearer, Benjamin James Simons, Curtis Lee Smith, Jaden Philip Smith, Liam Keating Smith, Matthew Dade Smith, Sienna Alexandra Sorbello, Jacob Paul St. Amand, Andrew Wesley Stockwell, Daniel Elwood Stockwell, Leah Mae Stone, Hunter Anthony Storro, Sean Michael Strausbaugh, Zoe-Isis Michaela Tardiff, Garrett Joseph Tatro, Kalli Marie Taylor, Amber Lindsay Thompson, Nathan Whipple Tower, Arthur Minh Hieu Turner, Bronwyn Grace Tyler-Wall, Siera Noel Valentin, Clare Margaret Veverka, Eric Benjamin Waniski, Ethan Donald Webster, Ava Duvall Whicker, Keenan Ford Wilson, Cambria Millicent Wozmak, Corrina Ruth Wright, Connor James Young, Daisy Rose McBride Young, Skylear Kumari Young.
Adult diploma program: Nyah Taylor Anderson, Felicity Cathrine Caroline Burgess, Hunter Scott Chandler, Sarah Lindsey Connors, Sarah Marie Cummings, Aliyah Sue McCarthy, Samuel Peter Sebert, Lydia Renée Swain, Caleb Michael Williams, Alison Elise Worcester.
Certificate of attendance: Paula Landin Carcedo, Iciar Ayala DeZunzunegui, Pauline Rosita Herman.