At Belmont’s graduation, a funny past and exciting future were the right mix

  • Seniors from Belmont High School walk past family and friends during graduation ceremonies Friday night. Ray Duckler—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/11/2022 12:38:17 PM
Modified: 6/11/2022 12:35:59 PM

Long before diplomas were handed to Belmont High’s graduating seniors Saturday night, family and friends enjoyed a variety show mixed with surprises, jokes, heartfelt thoughts, and the carefully crafted advice that forms the foundation of all graduations.

By the time the names of 78 seniors had been called to officially begin their new chapters in life, Joseph Cilley and Anthony Harrison – two former students at Belmont who now teach there and presented the Senior Class Advisor Address – had already poked fun at Principal Matthew Finch’s famously long speeches.

They’d also exhibited playful jest toward valedictorian Christoper Pare’s endless fuel tank and lightning-quick efficiency, and continued the relentless, night-long roast of their former principal, giving thanks that, as graduates, the senior class no longer had to listen to his jokes.

The ceremony was held at the school’s soccer field, with towering green trees standing behind the lectern and band, and a sun that eventually broke through and caused some in the crowd to shade their eyes.

Finch had a creative way to show the diverse nature and motivation of his seniors, opening the ceremony by asking students to stand if they had participated in sports, clubs, or art affiliated with the school, and if they had held a job during their busy senior year. Dozens stood for each activity.

Then Finch recited his traditional poem, using rhymes that would have made Dr. Seuss proud. He spoke comforting thoughts, like “Where ever you roam, you can always come home.”

Set goals, Finch suggested, and don’t be too proud to ask for help.

Harrison and Cilley then did their vaudevillian act, but the dynamic duo had plenty of words to inspire and show gratitude.

Harrison thanked “the ladies in the front office,” mentioning Victoria Brown, Angela Conway and others, some of whom had blown up dozens of balloons and tied them to the large columns that marked the entrance to the soccer field.

“Money is great,” said Cilley, an art teacher. “But time is more important.”

Next, four prestigious annual awards representing leadership and unselfishness were given to Summa Cum Laude Anna LaDue, and Magna Cum Laude Brian Miles, who won two.

Pare emerged as the star. The valedictorian was given the Roland S. Kimball Award as the “best all-around student.” He’ll study economics at Duke University.

“You’re my superstar, Chris,” shouted a woman in the audience as Pare walked to the front to receive his honor.

Pare made his hectic and accolade-filled life look so easy to manage that earlier Cilley had mentioned that his former art student’s schedule made Cilley himself tired.

“You plug in, right Chris?” Cilley asked. “I’d say, ‘I’m going to sleep an extra two hours just for you.’”

Not interested in giving the usual speech, Pare explained the difficulty of listening to Finch’s jokes at 7 a.m. He worried about teacher Brian McNabb’s Mountain Dew consumption.

And he asked Brian Miles to gently play his acoustic guitar, just in case the audience had grown tired of Pare’s speech. 

He poured a pitcher of water into a glass and allowed it to overflow, then watered some nearby flowers, playfully showing that you can do anything, “including watering flowers,” Pare said.

Pare asked the seniors to stand. Each displayed a poster with big, clear writing, thanking teachers and friends and shouting “Woohoo.”

Next was Ella Irving, the salutatorian who was ready to join the fun almost as soon as she reached the lectern.

“Chris, you made a mess here,” Irving said of the confetti Pare shot into the air. She told a joke, saying Finch deserved a lousy one.

“Is your refrigerator running? Well, go catch it,” she deadpanned.

Then, as was the case throughout the entire presentation, Irving made sure to include a serious message. She mentioned the homeless and the fact that there are “immigrants with nowhere to stay.”

“You have the ability to change someone’s life,” Irving said.

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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