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John Stark Regional High School graduates 160 seniors

Just before the 160 seniors graduated from John Stark Regional High School yesterday morning, commencement speaker Gerard Boyle, a judge in Concord’s district court and a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, asked the group to fall back on the core values they’ve learned over the years as a compass to guide their decisions in the future.

“We Marines like to talk about our core values as honor, courage and commitment. If those are your core values, you can’t go wrong,” Boyle said. “Sometimes, when

making a decision, you have to dig deep inside and look at what you really stand for, and then decide if (you’re) going to do what’s right. Use those core values and keep this in mind – there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing.”

The 27th graduation ceremony, held in a tent on the athletic fields, featured speeches by Principal Christopher Corkery, senior executive council members, salutatorian Justin Abbott, valedictorian Josh Morin, Boyle and Dr. Lorraine Tacconi-Moore, superintendent of schools. Throughout the event, cheers went up any time the John Stark softball team was mentioned, who went on to play in the Division II championship yesterday afternoon but ultimately lost to Coe-Brown, 6-5.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years since the two classes from Weare and Henniker combined to make this graduating class,” Morin said in his speech. “We’ve come a long way since those first awkward days when we would separate by town in the lunchroom. It didn’t take long at all, however, until we became united as one through our common struggle to master adolescence.”

As a class gift, Kelsey Johnstone and Taylor Montgomery of the senior executive council presented the school with an EZH2O water bottle filling station to help future classes be more environmentally friendly and use fewer disposable plastic bottles. After Boyle’s speech, the John Stark chorus performed a rendition of “Home” by Phillip Phillips. Gia Quinn, one of the chorus members, said the reality of graduation hasn’t sunk in for her yet.

“I’m definitely going to miss high school because it’s basically like my family,” she said. “There are so many people at the school that have impacted my life positively, and I’ll never forget that. I’ll miss them a lot.”

A highlight of her John Stark experience was competing as one of the school’s only gymnasts after 14 years of training, she said. Quinn will attend the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., to study engineering.

“My favorite classes were AP Calculus, AP Physics and maybe psychology,” she said. “I’m pretty science and math oriented.”

Beyond science and math, though, Quinn was also a member of the pep band, select chorus, concert band, vocal ensemble, theater performances and the International Thespian Society. She and friend Tim Mitchell met in their classes for the honors program but became friends in the theater programs.

“In college, I think I’ll focus on studying education,” said Mitchell, who donned a Cat in the Hat-like red-and-white striped hat on top of his graduation cap. He’s still deciding between New England College, Plymouth State University and the University of Vermont for the fall.

“It might be kind of corny to say, but I’ve really been inspired by my teachers,” he said. “That’s why I want to go into education, but graduation is pretty bittersweet.”

Corkery had three messages he wanted to get across to the graduates, in line with Boyle’s theme of making moral choices.

“First, do your best. Second, do the right thing, and third, you’ve got to make a bit of a difference,” he said. “Bring a little bit of life, bring a little bit of color, do a little something special in everyone’s life, and make a difference somewhere. Make a difference with your education.”

(Ann Marie Jakubowski can be reached at 369-3302 or

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