Cause to celebrate: Belmont High Class of 2019 challenged to stay connected

  • Belmont High School graduates walk into the crowd at the Bank of New Hampshire pavilion in Gilford on Sunday to hand out flowers to people who supported them in high school.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Kaela Asselin poses for a photo with her cousin Grace at the Belmont High School graduation at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford on Sunday.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  •  Kaela Asselin poses for a photo with her cousin Grace at the Belmont High School graduation at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford on Sunday.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Kaela Asselin poses for a photo with her cousin Grace at the Belmont High School graduation at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford on Sunday.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Makayla Palmer hands out flowers to her family members during Belmont High School’s graduation ceremony at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion on Sunday.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Makayla Palmer hands out flowers to her family members during Belmont High School’s graduation ceremony at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion on Sunday.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Katrina Annis poses with her mother, Turs, at Belmont High School’s graduation ceremony Sunday.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Miah Bailey pulls a flower out of a bouquet to give to a family member during Belmont High’s graduation ceremony Sunday at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford.

  • Katrina Annis hands flowers to her mother, Turs, at Belmont High School’s graduation ceremony Sunday.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Miah Bailey pulls a flower out of a bouquet to give to a family member during her graduation from Belmont High School at Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford on Sunday.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Belmont High School graduate Arianna Janosz hands a flower to a friend during her graduation ceremony at New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford on Sunday.  LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Belmont High graduate Arianna Janosz poses with a friend during her graduation ceremony Sunday. LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/16/2019 7:53:23 PM

Katherine Wieck had the spotlight on her as she stood behind the podium at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.

But Wieck, the valedictorian of the Belmont High School Class of 2019, choose not to talk about herself during her speech. Instead, she decided to shine a light on the accomplishments of her classmates.

“The title of valedictorian is awarded as the highest academic accomplishment in high school. It seems almost foolish to award this to just one student, “Wieck said. “After all, what does this position truly represent?”

“The valedictorian may not be the smartest student in the grade,” Wieck continued. “Behind me today sit dozens of other students, some of whom are incredibly knowledgeable, maybe just not in ways that their GPA represents.”

Wieck said within the Belmont Class of 2019 there are aspiring neurosurgeons who have memorized the ins and outs of the human brain, musicians who can write and perform beautiful music and programmers who have built functional computers from scratch. There are kids who have made their own skateboards, and kids who know how to make delicious cupcakes, Wieck said.

“Each one of these things take hard work, dedication and incredible amounts of knowledge that I don’t think I could even begin to understand,” she said of the accomplishments of her peers.

There’s a lot more to being intelligent than just academic success, Wieck said. It’s important on a day like graduation to take the time to acknowledge every student’s unique talents and skills.

Wieck ​​was one of a sea of students in white and red caps and gowns Sunday afternoon who received their diplomas from Belmont High. A theme at graduation was the importance of making connections with others.

Alice Riley, the class’s salutatorian, said that’s something students had a lot of time to practice during four years at Belmont.

“We’ve not only learned what a good friend is, but also how to be one: a skill we will carry with us throughout our lives,” Riley said. “We took care of one another, and people were always willing to help out another student. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen someone perform a random act of kindness. We have learned to be empathetic and how to carry this understanding out into our world.”

Brian McNabb, a teacher at Belmont and the keynote speaker at the ceremony, said the ability to make connections is a skill he tries to instill in students who take his class.

“I teach English, but my bigger goal is to teach students how to connect with others in all aspects of their life,” he said. “Connecting can be as simple as listening to a quick story, sharing a laugh, or simply saying well done after an accomplishment. It can also be having a heart to heart talk. Connecting satisfies our natural need to be part of a community or something beyond ourselves. What I don’t mean by connecting is device-dependent interactions, where technology does the thinking and talking.”

“Unfortunately, many of us have replaced face-to-face connections with virtual ones. We shop online, order food online, collect friends on Facebook. We’ve replaced phone conversations with snaps, tweets, texts.”

Students were able to demonstrate the connections they had fostered through high school when they took bouquets of flowers into the audience during the ceremony and gave out a flower to each person who supported them.

Riley, who will study women and gender studies and pre-law next year at Kenyon College in Ohio, said it’s a tradition that represents the culture of giving back at Belmont High.

“I want to recognize our families, who have loved and supported us long before high school,” she said during her speech. “These past 12 years, they have come to concerts, events, games and helped with a lot of laundry. But before that, our families taught us how to act out in the world. These people have pushed us to be better and prepared citizens. They taught us what unconditional love and support is, and everyone has someone in their corner.”




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