MANCHESTER — It was all about making choices, being kind to others, and making an impact on the changing world.
That’s the hope of Class of 2019 Valedictorian Maria Gibeau as she bid farewell to her classmates and teachers and asked everyone to look forward to what lies ahead, and finding life’s purpose and meaning.
Gibeau’s address was part of Pinkerton Academy’s commencement ceremony Monday held at the Southern New Hampshire University Arena in Manchester.
The ceremony began with a recording of the traditional tolling of Pinkerton’s famed bell as a long line of soon-to-be graduates filed into the arena led by Junior Class Marshal Jeffrey Potvin, carrying the cane that once belonged to one of Pinkerton’s founders, Maj. John Pinkerton.
This year was a first as Pinkerton graduates all wore red gowns, not the traditional red and white of past years.
Graduating seniors Sara Chemi, Samantha Griffin, Shea Flanders and Morgane Vigroux sang the national anthem while classmates Emma Groenewal and Ashlee Weatherbee interpreted the song in sign language.
After welcoming remarks from faculty and administration, class Salutatorian Lauren Sylvain told her classmates she didn’t have a completely normal high school experience, but learned to climb out of tough struggles and find that inner resilience — that’s what Pinkerton did for her.
“Suffering from numerous medical conditions, I had to really search for the resilience that allowed me to be standing here today,” she said. “I am confident that every graduate sitting here today has the ability to push through life’s challenges and be a successful and accomplished young adult.”
For Gibeau, it was also about saying goodbye and offering thanks for four years of success and opportunity.
“The time may have come now, for us to move forward in our lives, but as you go forth, continue to ask yourself why and to define your purpose,” she said. “We are entering into a complex and constantly changing world. That world needs us to discover our purpose so we can be our true selves and use our gifts to create the society we hope to see for future generations. Be proud of who you are and all that you have accomplished.”
Dr. William Nevious, president of Pinkerton’s Board of Trustees, spoke about his own story of being young and growing up in a foster home in Illinois and being taken to visit a home where Abraham Lincoln once lived.
Nevious said he forged a lifelong relationship with Lincoln that remains today, thinking often about what the 16th president stood for and believed in. Nevious spoke of a dream where he actually had a conversation with Lincoln.
“He gave me some thoughts, some advice to you, to share his thoughts,” Nevious told the graduates.
Lincoln’s dreamlike thoughts included telling students that each day was a new learning experience and to take advantage of that. And to be kind.
“He said to respect all of those around you and everyone you meet,” Nevious said. “Be empathetic and understand they have a voice and that voice is important. We all have different opinions and we are all in this together.”
Headmaster Dr. Timothy Powers wanted to leave the Class of 2019 with a simple request — do one small act of kindness daily.
“Smile at someone, ask them how they are doing,” he said. “Open a door for someone and pay it forward.”
Powers said even doing small things can mean a lot to someone.
“We don’t know the impact,” he said, “but we know we are better people because of them.”
Student honors and awards were announced during the ceremony including Honors Diploma, New Hampshire State Scholars, and Presidents’ Education Excellence Awards.
Four students — Samantha DiGenova, William Garvey, Luke Osborn and Sydney Steger — were named National Merit Finalists.
Other college and university scholarships and awards along with community awards and honors exceeded more than $9 million this year.
Finally, diplomas neatly stacked on a table on the main stage were distributed to the graduates, each taking the diploma and exiting the stage with an occasional high five or handshake along the way with favorite teachers or administrators.
One soon-to-be graduate did a flip on the stage prior to receiving his diploma. Another emotional moment came when Adam Villeneuve stood up out of his wheelchair and walked across the stage with a walker to receive his diploma.
After all diplomas were awarded, all graduates entering the military were asked to stand and they received a standing ovation.