Cloudy
30°
Cloudy
Hi 37° | Lo 31°

For one Pembroke Academy graduate, a diploma was ‘a long time coming’

  • Anna Kingston adjusts her lei prior to marching into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Anna Kingston adjusts her lei prior to marching into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Pembroke Academy salutorian Madeline Stewart fiddles part of her speech during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Pembroke Academy salutorian Madeline Stewart fiddles part of her speech during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Pembroke Academy grads listen to speakers during commencement exercises on Satuday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Pembroke Academy grads listen to speakers during commencement exercises on Satuday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Pembroke Academy Class of 2014 President Jordan Evans speaks to his class prior to their marching into the gymnasium for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Pembroke Academy Class of 2014 President Jordan Evans speaks to his class prior to their marching into the gymnasium for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Anna Kingston adjusts her lei prior to marching into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Anna Kingston adjusts her lei prior to marching into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Scott Heath, his phone camera at the ready, waits for his son Parker to march into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Scott Heath, his phone camera at the ready, waits for his son Parker to march into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Scott Heath, his phone camera at the ready, waits for his son Parker to march into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Scott Heath, his phone camera at the ready, waits for his son Parker to march into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Pembroke Academy grads listen to speakers during commencement exercises on Satuday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Pembroke Academy grads listen to speakers during commencement exercises on Satuday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Pembroke Academy salutorian Madeline Stewart fiddles part of her speech during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Pembroke Academy salutorian Madeline Stewart fiddles part of her speech during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Pembroke Academy Class of 2014 President Jordan Evans speaks to his class prior to their marching into the gymnasium for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Pembroke Academy Class of 2014 President Jordan Evans speaks to his class prior to their marching into the gymnasium for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Pembroke Academy salutorian Madeline Stewart fiddles part of her speech during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Pembroke Academy salutorian Madeline Stewart fiddles part of her speech during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Pembroke Academy Class of 2014 President Jordan Evans speaks to his class prior to their marching into the gymnasium for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Pembroke Academy Class of 2014 President Jordan Evans speaks to his class prior to their marching into the gymnasium for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Anna Kingston adjusts her lei prior to marching into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Pembroke Academy salutorian Madeline Stewart fiddles part of her speech during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Pembroke Academy grads listen to speakers during commencement exercises on Satuday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Pembroke Academy Class of 2014 President Jordan Evans speaks to his class prior to their marching into the gymnasium for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Anna Kingston adjusts her lei prior to marching into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Scott Heath, his phone camera at the ready, waits for his son Parker to march into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Scott Heath, his phone camera at the ready, waits for his son Parker to march into the auditorium at Pembroke Academy for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Pembroke Academy grads listen to speakers during commencement exercises on Satuday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Pembroke Academy salutorian Madeline Stewart fiddles part of her speech during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Pembroke Academy Class of 2014 President Jordan Evans speaks to his class prior to their marching into the gymnasium for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Pembroke Academy salutorian Madeline Stewart fiddles part of her speech during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Pembroke Academy Class of 2014 President Jordan Evans speaks to his class prior to their marching into the gymnasium for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

Outside in the parking lot, her family’s car stood out with painted messages of congratulations addressed to “Mom.” Later that afternoon, she’d head to a cookout to revel in an accomplishment that was 17 years in the making.

In a corridor of teenagers and young adults in caps and gowns, Clairemarie Grandmaison was beaming in her own graduation attire as she greeted her husband and children. The mother of three – with two children in high school and one in elementary school – was one of 217 graduates celebrating at Pembroke Academy yesterday morning.

Grandmaison said she decided to enroll in Pembroke’s 15-week adult education program after seeking out work, only to find that “there’s nothing you can really do until you have your high school diploma.” For her, the milestone was as much about advancing her own professional opportunities as it was about teaching her own children the importance of a high school education.

“It’s just been a long time coming, but I’m glad I did it,” she said. “This is for anybody who’s never done it or who’s thought about doing it – go for it. It’s the most amazing feeling.”

Still, she said, the path to a diploma had not been easy.

At times, it was hard to miss so many family dinners for night classes. Grandmaison’s husband, who works as a truck driver, also took on added responsibilities “as mom and dad” to accommodate her new schedule.

Returning to an academic environment where many of her peers were a generation or two younger was also an adjustment, she said – though by the end of the program, she grew to appreciate the bonds she formed with her classmates.

“A lot of the kids touched my heart,” she said. “It’s been a long 15 weeks, but it’s been worth it.”

Headmaster Michael Reardon said about 40 adult learners graduate from Pembroke each year, though this year’s class was closer

to 30. To Grandmaison and other students embarking on new chapters, he stressed a message of resilience in the face of often-unpredictable challenges that lie ahead.

He urged them “to never relinquish your dignity or your integrity in the face of life’s myriad and inevitable injustices – but even more, to maintain a fiery resolve to defeat those wrongs through the choices, large or small, that you make each day.”

For some seniors, the time at Pembroke had already been defined by challenges and changes in plans.

Zachary Wiggin said he “almost got expelled” early on in high school, but football and supportive mentors helped him turn his act around. He said that a few years ago “nobody thought I’d be graduating,” but now he’s heading to NHTI and, he hopes, eventually on to a four-year college.

Emma Chatterton thought she’d be attending college as soon as she graduated high school. Instead, she’s since realized “it’s really important to know yourself before making a big decision” – so she’s taking a gap year, heading to India in September for volunteer work and other new adventures.

Adam Gelinas, meanwhile, threw himself into athletics for three years – only to find out just before his senior year that a heart defect meant he could never again play at the same level, nor would he be able to fulfill his goal of joining the military. But he said the last year has taught him an important lesson: “Attitude will completely change the way you live.” He recently secured a sales job and plans to pursue business at NHTI.

Senior class adviser Ursula Askins-Huber said this group of seniors was well-acquainted with tragedy, losing “an unfair number of parents and siblings” in recent years. But in these difficult times and others, many went out of their way to support grieving peers.

Those gestures were sometimes simple, said senior Amanda Rosa. She pointed to a time when seniors took turns making lunch for a student who lost his mother, an attempt to provide some small daily comfort in the months after her death.

“You worry about each other,” Askins-Huber told the class during the ceremony. “You look out for each other.”

An outlook of compassion, she said, would continue to serve them well in their lives beyond Pembroke.

(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or cmcdermott@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.