HINSDALE, N.H. -- On Friday, a group of young people and their former principal finished their high school careers together.
John Sullivan was asked to be the commencement speaker at Saturday's Hinsdale High School graduation, which saw 45 students close one chapter of their lives and begin a new one. Sullivan started in the Hinsdale school system when the graduates entered elementary school. He stepped down as the high school principal in November for personal reasons but said he was honored to send off his former students with some words of encouragement.
"I wish to congratulate you on your having met the requirements to receive your diplomas. This ceremony formally recognizes that accomplishment and serves as a benchmark to the end of your adolescent days," he said at the podium on the high school grounds.
Sullivan also listed 10 things they must keep in mind the rest of their lives, whether they continue their education, enter the workforce or join the military. He told them to set goals for themselves, never forget those who have helped them, have fun, speak their mind, choose their career carefully, don't be afraid to ask for help, be disciplined, develop a work ethic, learn to recognize the difference between wrong and right, and share life's ups and downs with your best friends.
"If you're looking around to your right or to your left right now, you're looking in the wrong place. Your best friends do not have on caps and gowns -- they have on shorts, and skirts and baseball hats. They're here with their cameras, their phones and their video machines," he said on a cloudless day. "Your best friends are the members of your family. They will be the only ones in your life who will always love you just for who you are. Rely on them. Share your life with them. Celebrate your achievements and your disappointments with them."
Earlier in the ceremony, Salutatorian Tanner Nichols had thanked his own family and told his classmates they should do the same.
"Without them, we wouldn't have been born. But, more importantly, we wouldn't have started our journey here," he said before thanking Hinsdale High School's teachers and staff "for their passion and patience -- two things they could only model, and never teach."
He mentioned his classmates probably wanted him to say "We did it," but he acknowledged that their "journeys are just beginning -- just in a different setting."
Before the presentation of awards, scholarships and diplomas, Valedictorian Megan Fisk told her classmates to know that their struggles and adversities have made them who they are. She also wanted to say the past four years have been the best of their lives, but she knows that hasn't necessarily been the case for each student.
"I hope all of us can take one thing with us -- and that is pride. Be proud of who you are, what you're going to accomplish and where you came from," she said. "We can also say we have graduated from what may be the best class Hinsdale has ever since. For the most part, we get along with each other and we have overcome many obstacles of the class."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow Domenic on Twitter @dpoli_reformer