Pembroke Academy’s graduation ceremony was music to their ears 

  • Pembroke graduates line up to receive their diplomas at Northeast Delta Dental stadium on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Pembroke SAU 53 Board Executive Carl Schaefer has the honor of handing the diploma to his son, Jack, as the two are shown on the video screen at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Pembroke graduate Benjamin Kabanda looks over at his family as he honored for his academic achievement at the Pembroke graduation on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Pembroke graduates watch a senior video project at the graduation at Northeast Delta Dental stadium on Wednesday.

  • The Pembroke Academy graduation was held at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Pembroke graduate Hannah Brown stands as she was recognized with the Headmasters Award at the graduation on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/10/2021 3:37:11 PM

They emerged from the right-field corner Wednesday at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, creating a single file that followed the chalk line until turning right, onto the infield dirt.

About 170 Pembroke Academy graduating seniors – boys in green cap and gowns, girls in white – filled the folding chairs on each side of second base. They listened to inspiring speeches from classmates and faculty, then they moved down the third-base line, one by one, and headed for home.

There, they reached the plate, they reached for their diplomas, and, soon, they’ll reach for success in their chosen fields.

The graduates all have stories from the past and dreams for the future. Morgan Loomis wants to teach music. She plays enough instruments – guitar, violin, viola, piano, ukulele – to form a one-woman band.

She knows what she wants to do with her life, saying her first musical role model, Mircea Geana, taught her from first grade through last year.

“He gave me piano lessons,” Loomis said the day of her graduation. “He was my first band director and inspired me to go into music education.”

She also mentioned Colleen Macdonald and Scott Thibodeau, her music teachers this past school year. Thibodeau ran a field-work program in which students were dispersed to various schools for on-the-job training.

Loomis taught at three schools, working with kids from preschool all the way to students at Pembroke Academy. She had participated before in this out-of-class program to prepare for her career, but her most recent experience, led by Macdonald, proved to be the most fulfilling.

“She treated me like I was the teacher in the classroom,” Loomis said. “Other teachers were good, but they treated and taught me like I was a student. This gave me a different perspective.”

She received more perspective teaching middle school students at Three Rivers School. Some of the kids had lots of energy.

 “With that age bracket, there definitely were some rough times,” Loomis said. “It was a very difficult management because the students were all a very rowdy bunch, but I think I did pretty well learning how to deal with it when there’s trouble in the class.”

Loomis’s next step is another teaching gig in Manchester this fall, then she’s off to Bennington College in Vermont, where she’ll study music education.

Meanwhile, D’Andre Mitchell, like Loomis, was able to work his senior year outside the classroom, learning how to fight fires, become an EMT and earn Firefighter 1 status at Lakes Region Community College. He also interned with the Allenstown Fire Department

“An amazing experience,” Mitchell said, shortly before the graduation ceremony. “I got a real taste of what college is like and you realize no one is holding your hand. You have to do it yourself.”

It's in his blood. Mitchell's great grandfather was Allenstown's fire chief for 25 years. Meanwhile, his twin aunts are nurses. His family's example helped Mitchell choose his path as a fulltime firefighter and a part-time nurse, the skills of which he’ll learn at Plymouth State University.

“It all just clicked for me,” Mitchell said.

He learned about the force field, a defense mechanism, that he must develop to avoid the pain firefighters sometimes feel. Not from the fire, but from the results of the fire.

“You have to be mentally and physically prepared to go into a burning building,” D’Andre said, “You have to realize that sometimes, you see stuff you don’t want to see. You have to be mentally prepared for it.”

Mitchell missed a lot of fun his senior year. While his classmates were behaving like carefree seniors, he was learning how to fight fires and save lives, a responsibility that approached 50 hours per week.

“Some days it was tough,” Mitchell said. “I woke up and wanted to be a regular high schooler and see friends and go out to lunch. But other days, I loved it and I loved who I was.”

Tuesday’s scheduled ceremony was rained out. At Wednesday’s, held at the Fisher Cats’ home ballpark on a steamy-yet-clear night, Leah LaCross, a high honors student, got things started by playing a flawless rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Elsewhere, Valedictorian Nate Quinn praised several sports teams, citing the cheer team for winning its sixth straight state title.

Alexis Carignan, the senior class vice president, and Senior Senator Ryan Casey (high honors) paid tribute to teachers Kim Bates and Paul Cunningham for their work as class advisors.

Bates used a cooking analogy to describe taking risks in life, and Cunningham added to that thought by saying, “The journey is worth it.”

Near the end, Headmaster Dr. Dan Morris presented the Headmaster's Award to Hannah Brown, also a high honors student.

In closing, Morris, referring to the haunting memory of the Coronavirus last year, gave his students a pat on the back.

“You are all fighters,” he said.

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