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Belmont High School graduates laugh, hug their way through

In the last moment of his high school career, Jared Clough of Canterbury got swept up in the enthusiasm of his classmates and – for old times’ sake – gave one last burst of youthful exuberance.

Belmont High School officials stood ready to give Clough his diploma, the last in the pile, yesterday morning. As he shot the crowd a wide smile and dropped to the stage floor in a split, the crowd, his classmates and the school officials cheered.

“I wasn’t going to do it,” Clough said after graduation. “But my friends in the front row were like, ‘You’ve gotta do it.’ So I did.”

The splits had won him the title of Mr. BHS this spring, and his performance yesterday was the effervescent rainbow on top of a bright and cheerful morning graduation for the Belmont High School Class of 2013, graduating at Meadowbrook in Gilford.

The 105 graduates smiled, laughed and hugged their way through the end of high school.

Both class President Adam Horan and class Adviser Mike Foley told the graduates they “nailed it,” the “it” being both a panoramic photo and four years of high school.

Kayli Ennis, winner of the prestigious Roland Kimball award for engagement and involvement in academics and community, said she woke up at 6:30 yesterday morning, too excited to sleep.

She was the first student to process down the aisle of the pavilion, and she was touched, literally and emotionally, by all the support from the community.

“People were saying things as I walked by, like congratulations, and good job, and they were reaching out and touching us. It was really nice,” she said. “It was people I knew and some I didn’t know. Some were parents of kids I had been friends with but lost touch with when we were in different classes. It’s cool because everyone came to support us all.”

Valedictorian Julia Ashey told the graduates to “unlimit” themselves, advice she first heard as a freshman trying out for the track team and finally understood when she saw the selfless acts of heroism after the Boston Marathon bombings, she said.

Keynote speaker and retiring art teacher Edibeth Farrington cried, a little, at the end of her address.

First, though, she told them the story of how she came to be their art teacher, after lots of other plans didn’t work out.

“Forty-four years ago, on a day just like this, I was sitting on a stage like you are. I had a goal, a direction, a dream. I was going to make my living as an artist,” she said. “After four months of being humiliated by my drawing teacher (at art school), I gave up and dropped out.”

Plan B was professional photography. Plan C, working as a “go-for” for a group of carpenters. Plan D was wife and mother.

Divorced, unemployed and supporting three children on public assistance a few years later, she went back to college. After still a few more detours into landscape design and elementary school art education, she landed, 20 years ago, at Belmont High School.

“I wouldn’t change any of it. . . . I can’t think of anything more satisfying than the acknowledgement I might have made a difference for any one of you,” she said, her voice breaking a little.

“I wish inside your diplomas there was a guide book, a how-to, a step-by-step to reaching your dream with ease. There isn’t. Know that if plan A, B, C, or F or Q doesn’t work, keep going until you find that one thing that makes you feel alive when you’re doing it.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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