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Concord High graduates told to find courage, pursue passions

  • From left: Concord High School students Nolan Carew, Alicia Sanders-Zakre, Ashwin Raghurajan, Thatcher Eills and Tobias Eckers talk before the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    From left: Concord High School students Nolan Carew, Alicia Sanders-Zakre, Ashwin Raghurajan, Thatcher Eills and Tobias Eckers talk before the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Mahra Lawrence adjusts her graduation cap before Concord High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Mahra Lawrence adjusts her graduation cap before Concord High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Joshua Miranda poses for a portrait before Concord High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Joshua Miranda poses for a portrait before Concord High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Concord High School students congregate before the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Concord High School students congregate before the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • From left: Concord High School students Nolan Carew, Alicia Sanders-Zakre, Ashwin Raghurajan, Thatcher Eills and Tobias Eckers talk before the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Mahra Lawrence adjusts her graduation cap before Concord High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Joshua Miranda poses for a portrait before Concord High School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Concord High School students congregate before the school's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 in Concord on Saturday, June 15, 2013.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

Thatcher Eills and Ashwin Raghurajan joined an elite group of high schoolers nationwide when they were named National Merit Scholars earlier this year. But their time at Concord High School was filled with far more than school books.

During the past four years, Eills served as co-president of the National Honor Society and captain of the rowing team, and helped craft a policy to extend the open campus policy to juniors. Raghurajan was a first chair cellist in the chamber orchestra and started a club to help combat homelessness in Concord. Through it all, the two learned a few things they’ll take to college: Never be afraid to ask for help or be your own biggest advocate.

“You have to be willing to advocate for yourself, because it’s very rare that anyone else is going to be an advocate for you,” Eills said. “I think you need confidence to do that . . . but you’ve just got to do it; you need to jump in. And I think graduating now is a perfect time to jump in.”

They, along with nearly 400 classmates, officially jumped into the next phase of their lives as they crossed the graduation stage yesterday at Memorial Field, donning crimson or white robes and matching Class of 2013 sunglasses. The students heard memories, life lessons and pieces of advice from fellow classmates as well as a keynote speech from Olympic gold medalist and Concord High alumna Tara Mounsey.

Mounsey told the graduates she remembered sitting in their seats 17 years ago, and that her one piece of advice was to “muster up the courage” – the courage to be who they are, follow their passions and always do what they think is right.

“Find your courage, enjoy your journey,” she said.

Those words reflect the attitudes toward school and life that Raghurajan and Eills share. Both became National Merit Scholars based on their SAT scores and a personal essay. Raghurajan’s parents, Raghu and Sunitha, instilled a drive in him to work hard in every aspect of his life. That drive got him into the University of Pennsylvania, where he plans to study math and economics. Not being afraid to admit you don’t know something is an important part of life, he said.

“I think you should never have the hesitation to speak up and ask for clarification, and always try to know what’s going on,” he said. “It’s going to take you really far.”

For Eills, the high academic standing that landed him a spot at Wesleyan University wasn’t always a priority. He could coast through with decent marks, but didn’t make a strong commitment to school until his sophomore year. Success comes from recognizing and seizing opportunities, he said, something he learned in part by watching his mother battle multiple sclerosis.

“I realized that I wasn’t going to reach my potential if I continued to just coast through everything,” he said. “I cracked down junior year, I cracked down senior year, I shot up in the class rank, and I realized I’m much happier now because I like who I am more.”

Both students said one of their favorite moments of high school was Tuesday’s senior class trip, a Mount Washington cruise. It gave the students a chance to share moments as an entire class, which Mounsey also encouraged them to do during her speech. She told the students to look around one last time at their classmates. Even if some students never see each other again, they’ll always be the Class of 2013.

“Take this moment to appreciate all the people around you. These are the people that helped shape your four-year history – the one, the only, Concord High School Class of 2013,” she said.

The class’s list of accomplishments was tallied by several speakers. Some of their achievements include having more National Honor Society members than any class in Concord High’s history and embracing the diversity of their classmates, 10 percent of whom were not born in the United States. They also led ambitious theater productions, expanded the size of the band, won athletic state championships and, one speaker noted with a laugh, kept campus so clean that it wasn’t closed down during lunch at all this year.

Salutatorian Jack Kirsch purposefully laced his speech with cliche pieces of advice.

“One final lesson, for it’s now or never: I beseech you to try and see the good in bad situations or bad things, find the silver lining in every cloud, and I promise you, it’ll lead to much greener pastures,” he said.

Valedictorian Mishael Khan told her classmates to find work they are passionate about, for it will make life much more thrilling.

“I encourage you to pursue your passions, because taking risks will become much easier if the love of the task far exceeds the costs. It is therefore of utmost importance that you choose to do things that will motivate you to challenge yourself and set your own goals,” she said. “By doing what you are truly interested in, your work will be most satisfying and done with the greatest attention, enthusiasm and effort.”

To close the ceremony, class President Joseph Alexander took the stage. After instructing the graduates to move their tassels from right to left, he gave one final departing piece of advice.

“(These) four years of laughter, love and tears are all over,” he said. “All we must do now is reach out and grab our destiny.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or
kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

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