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Coe-Brown graduates look to the future, and abroad

  • From left: Coe-Brown Northwood Academy students Joe Michaud, Shawn Woodbury and Connor Murphy-Pevear wait before the Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday May 24, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    From left: Coe-Brown Northwood Academy students Joe Michaud, Shawn Woodbury and Connor Murphy-Pevear wait before the Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday May 24, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy Assistant Headmaster Caryn Lasky, left, and Jessie Felber talk in the hallway before the Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday, May 24, 2013. "I can't believe I'm graduating," Felber, who was awarded the Ann E. Helmboldt Memorial Scholarship, said to Lasky. "I'm so excited."<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Coe-Brown Northwood Academy Assistant Headmaster Caryn Lasky, left, and Jessie Felber talk in the hallway before the Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday, May 24, 2013. "I can't believe I'm graduating," Felber, who was awarded the Ann E. Helmboldt Memorial Scholarship, said to Lasky. "I'm so excited."

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy salutatorian Allison Barnes, left, and valedictorian Kayla Roberts wait before Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday, May 24, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Coe-Brown Northwood Academy salutatorian Allison Barnes, left, and valedictorian Kayla Roberts wait before Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday, May 24, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy students Garrett Wensberg, left, and Brier Brooks walk together to their seats during the Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday, May 24, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Coe-Brown Northwood Academy students Garrett Wensberg, left, and Brier Brooks walk together to their seats during the Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday, May 24, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy held its 144th commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Northwood; Friday, May 24, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Coe-Brown Northwood Academy held its 144th commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Northwood; Friday, May 24, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • From left: Coe-Brown Northwood Academy students Joe Michaud, Shawn Woodbury and Connor Murphy-Pevear wait before the Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday May 24, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy Assistant Headmaster Caryn Lasky, left, and Jessie Felber talk in the hallway before the Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday, May 24, 2013. "I can't believe I'm graduating," Felber, who was awarded the Ann E. Helmboldt Memorial Scholarship, said to Lasky. "I'm so excited."<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy salutatorian Allison Barnes, left, and valedictorian Kayla Roberts wait before Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday, May 24, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy students Garrett Wensberg, left, and Brier Brooks walk together to their seats during the Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Northwood on Friday, May 24, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy held its 144th commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Northwood; Friday, May 24, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

The list of places John Dylan DeButts hopes to one day visit is long – too long to quantify, according to the 18-year-old, who graduated last night from Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, along with 159 other students.

But if the determination he displayed throughout high school is any indication, DeButts has a decent shot at ticking through much, if not all of it.

A Northwood resident with a penchant for language, DeButts has developed his Spanish skills over four years and is now nearly fluent. Last year he added French to his repertoire, progressing from elementary to advanced-level coursework in roughly one year. He taught children English last summer in the north of Spain, toured indigenous communities in Panama last spring and has a plane ticket to return to Spain in a few weeks.

Last night’s graduation marked another step in DeButt’s thoroughly conceived life plan. He will attend the University of New Hampshire this fall, majoring in English, and then wander the world, financing his itinerant lifestyle by teaching English as a second language.

“I want to be able to travel and see as much as possible,” he said.

If and when that grows old, he said, he will return to the states, complete a master’s degree and work as a high school English teacher.

At the ceremony last night in the Coe-Brown gymnasium, salutatorian Allison Barnes similarly encouraged the school’s 144th graduating class to embark on new adventures. For example, she joked, give a high school commencement speech in front of more than a thousand people, even though you’re “scared to death.”

Fear, Barnes noted, is an important component of life.

“We will all find that not everything in our life is what we want,” Barnes said. “But it’s the things that push us beyond our limits that help us grow.”

Kayla Roberts, Class of 2013 valedictorian, told graduates dressed in red-and-white gowns to recognize that routine distractions are an unavoidable aspect to growing up, but at some point one must acknowledge when a life chapter has ended and bravely face the one that is about to begin.

Reflecting back, Roberts said part of what made her class’s experience so great was Coe-Brown’s staff, which created “a place we can always turn to for guidance and support.”

Such support has proven especially meaningful for DeButts. Unlike his trips to Spain, last year’s school-affiliated sojourn to Panama had no revenue stream from which to offset travel costs.

“The catch-22 was it was a $2,000 trip, and I come from a family that struggles financially,” DeButts said.

When his Spanish teacher, Dolores Cerecebo-Newman, found out he was having trouble funding the trip, she pitched in some of her own resources to help make up the difference, according to DeButts.

“I owe that woman the world,” he said.

Jessie Felber, another graduate, also transformed her high school experience into a platform for global travel.

As part of her senior project, a Coe-Brown graduation requirement, the 18-year-old traveled to northern Morocco to volunteer for Operation Smile, which works to repair cleft palates and other facial deformities in developing countries. Felber had to demonstrate involvement with the organization for at least a year just to be eligible for the Morocco project. She organized a school club and attended leadership conferences in China and Virginia, the latter as direct training for the trip.

During the trip, Felber volunteered in a hospital and worked with children before and after surgery.

“It was really cool,” she said.

Children are a topic on which Felber plans to concentrate for the foreseeable future. Like DeButts, she plans to attend UNH, majoring in family studies, which focuses on early childhood development. Felber isn’t sure what she wants to do after that, but she said she’s interested in teaching.

At Coe-Brown, Felber was drawn to performing arts, including band, choir and drama. She sings and plays the euphonium, which is similar to a tuba. Band proved to be an especially invaluable experience.

“It made me feel immediately part of the school,” she said, adding that she plans to continue with the activity in college.

Felber was also an honor student. Though, by her own admission, that didn’t come naturally, particularly when it came to her last advanced math class.

“I walked in my first quarter and almost quit,” she said. “Math is just not my thing.”

But she said her grade improved consistently, and she not only passed the class, but finished with an A.

Asked what they would miss most about their high school, Felber and DeButts each said the close-knit community.

Here, DeButts said, “you know every face and every faculty member.”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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