Photo Gallery | Hinsdale High School's Graduation
HINSDALE, N.H. — "I'm a Pacer, and that's not gonna change for the rest of my life, I'm proud to be that way."
Class President Cameron Morales welcomed the crowd to the ceremony, and reflected fondly on the ups and downs his class had shared. He said they should celebrate their shared identity.
Friends and family gathered Saturday morning to commemorate the graduation of Hinsdale High School's 32 seniors, who will be entering the workplace and higher education.
The sentiment of pride in one's hometown roots was continued by Salutatorian Zebulon Hildreth, who exhorted his audience to appreciate their upbringing, but not let it limit their potential.
"The statement and mindset that 'I'm from Hinsdale, I'm never going anywhere' is completely false."
Hildreth elaborated this point with the story of a Hinsdale graduate who now works in the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.
"Someone who graduated from this high school, who was in the same position 25 years ago... is now in the heart of the Middle East, affecting U.S. relations, and in turn, affecting your lives daily."
With that real-life example, Hildreth offered a challenge for his classmates. It was up to them to use their education to chart their own course and to define themselves.
"A small town and school does not define you, the name 'Hinsdale' does not define you, the name on your diploma defines you."
Hildreth also encouraged his classmates to adopt an empathetic lifestyle, and to cultivate an interest in the stories of everyone. In his time working at Wal-Mart, Hildreth recalled a time when a mother had to tell her daughter she was unable to afford the groceries they had rung up.
"When you see the emotions of everyday people trying to get by, you realize we're all the same."
The salutatorian said the graduates should be grateful for the opportunity they had, and use it to help others.
"Realize that this place has given you something great."
Next, Leo Marshall, former substitute teacher and current administer of In-School Suspension, delivered a humorous commencement address, noting that it was ironic that the Class of 2016 asked him to speak. But he said it was often those disciplinary conversations, under admittedly unfortunate circumstances, that eventually resulted in relationships with the students.
Marshall encouraged the graduates to pursue their passions above all else.
"My biggest passion is my family. That will never change, always has been and always will be. But," Marshall gestured to the students, "you all are part of my extended family.
"I'm afforded on a daily basis, the opportunity to work with the most dedicated teachers, staff, SAU, and all you incredible students from Hinsdale."
Though his work in the school system had been difficult at times, Marshall recounted the advice given to him by Assistant Principal Jeff Kenney.
"He told me, 'Don't get caught up with not being able to reach each and every student.'"
It was enough, Marshall learned, to reach a few students in a lasting way. Marshall found success in doing what he loved, passionately, and with perspective.
"My friends, the point is this: don't get caught up with the minor frustrations you'll confront in life, there'll be a lot of 'em. Focus on the bigger things, the more important things: your passions. Whatever it is you do, do it with passion."
Floren Handelman gave his Honor Essay, reflecting on the importance of imagination, from the beginning of school to graduation.
"Our story is just beginning, it is time to imagine what is next."
Handelman summed it up by quoting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female elected head of state in Africa and current president of Liberia, "If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough."
In lieu of traditional speech, Valedictorian Sebastian Smith recited an original poem, both nostalgic and hopeful, relishing the safety and familiarity of high school.
"Holding you, me and the full extent of our years, it's a shame we must leave this beautiful entity in our minds."
Nevertheless, Smith looked forward to the future optimistically.
"It may be filled with enjoyment, sorrow, or even longing to return to our rightful place, but I can assure us that the goals we made here will always be something to behold."