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At Belmont High School graduation, salutatorian draws life lessons from Pac-Man

  • Graduates avoid a puddle as they line up before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff<br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Graduates avoid a puddle as they line up before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff



  • (From left) Riley Binette, Mary Russo and Ashley Ortiz-Bouzan take a moment as they lined up before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    (From left) Riley Binette, Mary Russo and Ashley Ortiz-Bouzan take a moment as they lined up before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Elijah Gravenhorst adjusts his tassel before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff<br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Elijah Gravenhorst adjusts his tassel before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff



  • Social studies teacher Tonya Angwin takes a selfie with Mary Russo (left) and Megan Bailey (right) before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Social studies teacher Tonya Angwin takes a selfie with Mary Russo (left) and Megan Bailey (right) before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Graduates avoid a puddle as they line up before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff<br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • (From left) Riley Binette, Mary Russo and Ashley Ortiz-Bouzan take a moment as they lined up before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Elijah Gravenhorst adjusts his tassel before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff<br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Social studies teacher Tonya Angwin takes a selfie with Mary Russo (left) and Megan Bailey (right) before Belmont High School's commencement at Meadowbrook in Gilford on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

Senior year of high school isn’t all that different from a game of Pac-Man, said Belmont High School salutatorian Samuel Chiu.

Think of the ghosts that chase the yellow spherical protagonist of the video game as the “challenges and responsibilities” faced leading up to graduation, Chiu told his peers last night.

The blue ghosts can be hard to predict, he said, like the “unexpected distractions” that pop up from time to time. The pink ghosts might represent commitments to sports and other

extracurricular activities, he said, and the meandering orange ghosts are kind of like the looming “transition from high school to a more independent life.”

As the seniors approach the final stretch, Chiu said, their ghosts might seem to get faster and their metaphorical “pellets” – the fuel that Pac-Man consumes as he dodges the ghosts – might become “less potent.”

But he urged his fellow seniors to learn from the strategies that help Pac-Man to stay alive. He advised staying calm, being aware of the larger situation and being confident in your capabilities when faced with future “ghosts.”

“Lastly,” Chiu said, “never hesitate moving the Pac-Man. Hesitation can be a more formidable enemy than the monsters.”

In matters of virtual reality and otherwise, Chiu and fellow seniors earned ample praise from administrators at the graduation ceremony, which was held at Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook. Three students – Andrew Mosier, Samantha Mackes and Matthew Leclair – received special awards honoring their citizenship and “outstanding” contributions to the Belmont community.

Teacher Angela Pitrone, who is departing the district for a cross-cultural teaching opportunity in Dubai, also delivered an emotional keynote address explaining the ways in which she’s learned from her students at Belmont – ending with a rendition of a song from the musical Wicked, which concludes with the line, “Because I knew you, I’ve been changed for good.”

Principal Dan Clary, before the ceremony, called the Class of 2014 “one of the nicest groups of students we’ve had in a long time.”

Just this Monday, Clary said, a group pitched in several hours to clean out an area that will house a pavilion in downtown Belmont. He’s since heard kind words about the dedication of the students involved.

At 85 seniors, this year’s graduating class was a bit smaller than others, Clary said. But he and other seniors agreed that the size made it easier for the group to form tight-knit bonds during their time at Belmont.

“This was a class that did not seem to have cliques. They seemed to not have barriers between them.” Clary said. “Now, they did not always get along – but it was so nice to see that they at least listened to the other side and at least seemed to be receptive of differences.”

That message was echoed in the address from valedictorian Courtney Pelletier, who started her speech with a confession – “I’m a weird person” – but went on to explain that she was in good company.

“I am a part of perhaps one of the oddest classes to have made it through Belmont High School,” she said. “We’re full of dancing social workers, athletic video-gamers and artistic law enforcement. Undoubtedly, the word ‘unusual’ has been used to describe us in the past.”

But Pelletier said those differences have taught them an important lesson: “to give love even to the weirdos like ourselves.”

“I know that, no matter what, we’ll trudge on,” she said, to a world “waiting to accept us because we can care about others – oddities and all.”

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

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