Newport High graduates urged to be who they want to be

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 06-06-2024 1:47 PM

NEWPORT — Familiar graduation themes of gratitude, memories and a future full of opportunities to seize and challenges to overcome were expressed by speakers at the Newport High School graduation held on the football field Wednesday.

The class of 51 graduates, who entered high school in the fall of 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, were praised for their hard work and resiliency during those difficult months. 

Salutatorian Rachel LeFrancois, who plans to study biology at Pepperdine University in California this fall, reminded her classmates that high school had a lot of ups and downs with obstacles that they all pushed through. The future, LeFrancois said, may also be filled with challenges and be “unpredictable and unforgiving at times” but ahead lie opportunities and a chance to make new memories while they search for their paths in life.

“When life brings you down, don’t let it drag you down the wrong path,” LeFrancois said. “And if you find yourself somewhere less than desirable, it’s never too late to turn around. You only have one life, so make it how you want it. You can do whatever you want to do and (be) whoever you want to be.”

Valedictorian Katie Sharron opened her remarks by comparing life to a book, with graduation marking the end of one chapter and with the next chapters ready to be written. She shared memories of high school challenges and fun, gave thanks to her teachers, her older brothers and parents, and said Newport was instrumental in shaping the person she has become.

“Without these people in this chapter of my life my book wouldn’t be successful,” said Sharron, who is headed to Limestone University in South Carolina to study exercise science and play field hockey. “As we close this chapter of our story and embark on a new one, let’s all remember the people who we survived high school with and thank them for the memories, lessons and friendships that were made.”

The different paths ahead will bring challenges, Sharron said, and now they have the chance to fill out the next pages in their lives.

“As adults, we don’t have teachers and parents trying to guide us; it’s up to us to make ourselves successful,” Sharron said.

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In his welcoming remarks, Class President and Class Essayist Kyle Ashley, who is headed to the Naval Academy, thanked the school and administration for guiding the class through remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and also thanked all the teachers for their time, effort and dedication.

“The impact that each teacher has made in our community is immeasurable and has never gone unnoticed in the slightest,” Ashley said.

Recalling the days of float building for Homecoming in their junior year, which earned them the nickname Gremlins, Ashley urged his “fellow gremlins” to strive for greatness but remember where they came from.

“So throw off your bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover,” Ashley said.

The class poem was written by Shihannah Toliver, who also used the theme of overcoming challenges, saying it was time to “grow into the sky” and “part and say farewell” as families and friends are “clapping for all but cheering for one.”

“Our dreams and goals will lead the way and it all starts here on graduation day,” said Toliver, who will study creative writing at New England College in Henniker, N.H.

The one-hour commencement concluded with congratulations to the class from SAU 43 Superintendent Donna Magoon and School Board member Kathryn Boutin.

“You have worked hard,” said Boutin. “Revel in this moment. You have earned it.” 

Magoon instructed graduates to move their tassels on the mortarboard from right to left, symbolizing the completion of their high school journey.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.

Newport High School Class of 2024: Benjamin Sawyer Almstrom; Logan Scott Ash; Kyle Ryan Ashley; Bryce Christopher Bahara; Tristan W. Beaudry; Lauren Chanel Brewer; Ashton Bushway; Ava Marie Cameron; Isabella Carley; Abagail Faith Carmichael; Nevaeh Mae Caron; Nathan Joel Cartier; Andrew Russell Chartier; Adrianna Coleman; Xander Nicholas Collins; Catherine Rachel Cossingham; Lucas MacKenzie Devore; Tanir Fournier; Elija Fuller; Levi Aren Gilman; Colton Godwin; Andrew Jonathan Hagar; Gage Hamilton; Gabriel M. Hills; Gavin Dana King; Griffin Earl LaFountain; Austin Robert Lancey; Rachel Anne O’Brien LeFrancois; Hunter Cole Maynard; Gabriel Emmanuel Merritt; Brianna Jean-Marie Millette; Makayla Jordyn Moulton; Landin Joseph Mulvey; Landon Michael Norris; Emmah Dawn O’Connor; David Jonathon Powell; Malachy Regan; Annalise Kristen Renner; Xzander Robert; Bryan Ripley; Tanya Marie Sanchez; Katie Ann Sharron; Sarah Stone; Kimberlee Rose Surrell; Shihannah Bliss Toliver; Bailey Marie Trumans; Allyssa Madison Turcot; Dylan Robert Warburton; Collin David Waterman; Jamon Daniel West; and Kayla Lauren Zullo.