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HENNIKER

Pausing to breathe

New England College graduates ponder the next move

Sunshine wasn't in attendance at New England College's 64th commencement celebration, but the new graduates, families and friends made up for the chill with beaming smiles and warm congratulations all around.

The 400 graduates - from around the state and the world - are the largest class to ever walk across the commencement stage at the school, and also the first in several years to graduate outside. They came from Dover and Swanzey, Maine and Wyoming, China and Russia.

Graduate student speaker Joe Althouse told the crowd how he found his public policy classes in parallel with his work in post-earthquake Haiti.

Undergraduate speaker Charles Harriman II said he's changed a lot since freshman year, when he walked around campus in a tie-dyed T-shirt and ponytail. Despite the suit he wore under his graduation gown, he still managed to quote John Lennon and the Grateful Dead in his speech.

After the speeches and the distribution of the degrees, families posed for pictures at favorite spots around

campus, and celebrated with friends.

Tomorrow, though, it's back to work, said many of the advanced degree recipients.

Carolyn Cormier won't have much time to celebrate earning her master's in education, as she heads back to her fourth grade classroom in New Ipswich tomorrow.

Her master's degree was a long time in the making, she said, as she enrolled and took classes at several other colleges before finding New England College.

With her parents, husband Jared, and daughter Mackenzie in tow, she finally finished, and hopes to find a position soon as an elementary school principal, she said.

Mackenzie, standing in line with her family for some food at the reception after the ceremony, guzzled water from a plastic bottle and nodded that she was proud of her mom for graduating.

Mom said she was just as proud of the toddler: "It was a long ceremony for her to sit through, but she made it," she said.

Other graduates, especially the bachelor's degree recipients, said they plan to take Trustee Jim Murtha's advice.

"Relax. Enjoy your success.. . . There's time," he told the graduates in his address. "Don't lounge around the yard all summer, but take comfort in your achievement."

That's exactly what sports and recreation management major Jim Benjamin plans to do.

With no job lined up yet, his only plans are some graduation celebrations and "a little R and R" back home in Albany, N.Y., he said.

Tamika McMayl of Hartford, Conn., graduated with a bachelor's in communication, but plans to go back to school for her master's instead of facing the job market, her family said before the ceremony.

"She knows what she's doing," said aunt Faye Williams. "She'll do fine. She has an extremely supportive family."

Just making it to college graduation was a triumph for McMayl, her brother Orane McMayl said.

She was born premature, weighing in at a whopping 16 ounces.

"She faced a lot of challenges. To see her come this far, it far exceeds anyone's expectations," he said, but he wasn't surprised.

Despite her health struggles, Tamika always tried to join her brother and his friends in sports.

"No matter what, she always tried," he said.

Linda Doiron of Abington, Mass., said she's going to listen to the advice Murtha gave the parents in the commencement crowd: "Don't push too hard."

The family spent much of yesterday morning packing her son Joe's things to help him move from Henniker to an apartment in Manchester, where he'll soon begin work in his first post-graduation job.

Just what will he be doing? That's hush-hush for now.

Doirion, a political science major, member of the student senate and active political campaigner his whole young life, is going to be working for an as-yet undeclared presidential candidate, Linda Doirion said.

"It's still top secret," she said, adding, "we're very proud."

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen delivered the keynote address yesterday, telling the graduates it is their duty to give back and get involved, especially to combat America's reliance on fossil fuels.

America needs comprehensive energy policies that encourage development of jobs in alternative energies, as China, Germany and Brazil foster innovation in the industry, she said.

"Unfortunately, our policy seems to fluctuate with the price of oil . . . Our policymakers need to think beyond the short term, but they will only do that if you demand it, or if you become the policy makers yourselves," she said.

"You won't win every battle, but you will only truly lose if you stay on the sidelines," she said.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com.)