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Graduating senior at Franklin High will choose her destiny

  • From left: Franklin High School students Hannah Carle, Morgan Grooms, Elyse Styles and Zoe Poirier share a moment before the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    From left: Franklin High School students Hannah Carle, Morgan Grooms, Elyse Styles and Zoe Poirier share a moment before the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Cakes await family, friends and graduates during Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Cakes await family, friends and graduates during Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Destiny Bennett, left, shares a moment with her boyfriend Lucas Gagne, right, after Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Destiny Bennett, left, shares a moment with her boyfriend Lucas Gagne, right, after Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Makayla Hughes, facing, talks to a classmate during Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Makayla Hughes, facing, talks to a classmate during Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • A rainbow appears above Franklin High School students during the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    A rainbow appears above Franklin High School students during the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Brayden Turner, middle, plays under the rafters during Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Brayden Turner, middle, plays under the rafters during Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Franklin High School student Meaghan Corning, right, hugs teacher Jule Finley, left, after receiving her diploma at the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Franklin High School student Meaghan Corning, right, hugs teacher Jule Finley, left, after receiving her diploma at the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • From left: Franklin High School students Hannah Carle, Morgan Grooms, Elyse Styles and Zoe Poirier share a moment before the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Cakes await family, friends and graduates during Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Destiny Bennett, left, shares a moment with her boyfriend Lucas Gagne, right, after Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Makayla Hughes, facing, talks to a classmate during Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • A rainbow appears above Franklin High School students during the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Brayden Turner, middle, plays under the rafters during Franklin High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Franklin High School student Meaghan Corning, right, hugs teacher Jule Finley, left, after receiving her diploma at the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Franklin on Friday, June 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

Destiny Bennett shoehorned a lifetime of giving into her four years in high school.

She needed 40 hours of community service to join last night graduation’s ceremony at Franklin High School.

School officials said 300 to 400 hours of unselfish acts are considered a lot.

Bennett? She logged more than 1,000 hours, and will head to the University of New Hampshire this fall.

“Busy,” Bennett said with this week in a conference room off the main lobby, laughing at the magnitude of her understatement. “But for me, it was easy, because I was doing all the things I loved.”

Bennett, a member of the National Honor Society, was one of 87 graduating seniors who sat in chairs, facing their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents, on the school’s football field.

With a gentle breeze blowing and dandelions floating like snowflakes, valedictorian Emily Daniel said she had recently seen the pigtails and clothing of her youth in a first-grade photo of her now-graduating classmates.

Then Daniel proceeded to wear out a path from her seat to the podium as she accepted award after award, for academics, for band and for athletics.

Salutatorian Lindsey Rago also spoke, expressing admiration for her friends’ talents, such as Jonna Cilley’s voice and Dakota Edwards’s ability to fix anything and everything.

Carrie Charette, who just two hours before the ceremony had learned she was one of five finalists in the running for the state’s Teacher of the Year award, was the keynote speaker. Mixing humor with tears, Charette recited a list of lessons to live by, including “stay true to your heart and dreams,” and “never say something in anger.”

As for Bennett, she collected scholarship money from the Franklin School Board following a high school career filled with singing, dancing and acting, which led to hundreds of hours of community service.

With Jule Finley, head of school’s theater department, as well as local theater productions staged at the Franklin Opera House, inspiring her, Bennett played a screaming teenager named Penelope Ann in Bye Bye Birdie, one of the sisters in A Christmas Carol and is currently rehearsing for her part as Wickette Girl No. 1 in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

As Franklin Principal Richard Towne said, “She’s a great kid and someone I highly recommended for college. She helped us organize all kinds of school functions.”

Start with fundraising for Families in Transition, a nonprofit that helps those in need receive meals and housing. Bennett has helped arrange functions, like a formal dinner that featured a giant chocolate fountain, complete with pretzel sticks and strawberries for dipping.

She once hosted a hat-and-mittens drive so children from low-income families could keep warm during the winter. At the time, Bennett worked at a local retail clothing store and was able to secure discounts on merchandise.

She’ll never forget one beneficiary, a girl about 6 years old.

“I had the chance to see one of the little girls in that one,” Bennett said, beaming, as she often does. “She got a kitten hat and mittens and fell in love with them. She was so happy, it was like Christmas morning for her. That was one of the best moments.

“It opens your eyes to how the little things really do matter,” Bennett continued. “Everyone else had those types of things, but they don’t. We gathered over 500 sets of hats and mittens. Knowing each and every one made that much of a difference to someone in our community, you can’t put words on the feeling.”

Elsewhere, Bennett dresses up as an elf, called Tinker, each Christmas season and helps the kids make toys while they wait to have their picture taken with Santa. “He comes here all the way from the North Pole,” Bennett said.

Also, Bennett prepares meals a couple of times a year at the local food pantry, The Bread and Roses Kitchen, so people down on their luck can eat for free; joins others in making baskets filled with playing cards and toiletries and personal notes for those serving in places like Afghanistan and Iraq; helped start a gardening project at the local grade school by planting trees and putting in flower beds; worked on a fashion program that provided prom dresses at cheaper rates for those who might need them; and coached girls in a Little League softball program.

But working in theater is her favorite thing to do.

“It’s such a loving place to be,” Bennett said. “And when we have the shows, we see all the little old ladies, and we have this group of little old ladies who always come and get all dolled up and tell us we make their day. Seeing that kind of enjoyment in people is great.”

Meanwhile, Bennett also helps at home, where her mother is disabled and unable to work. “My mom and I have always managed to make it work,” Bennett said. “We’re fairly self-sufficient, and she’s there for me when I need her.”

As for the future, Bennett will study psychology and criminology at the University of New Hampshire, but she’s not sure what she wants to do for a living.

“I could change my mind 100 times by time I leave here,” she said. “

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

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