In Franklin, a small class says goodbye knowing they always have community back home

  • Franklin graduate Meghan Donahue acknowledges the applause from her classmates as well as from the crowd at graduation on Friday. Donahue received the English, Science and Social Science excellence awards. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/18/2022 11:28:02 AM

The chords, pins and sashes on top of Andrew Gagnon’s royal blue graduation gowns tell the story of his Franklin High School career. The white collar signifies his place in the National Honor Society. His New Hampshire Scholars pin shows his academic rigor. And a medallion, with a theater emblem, celebrates the many shows in which he participated.

He pauses to count on his finger to remember how many plays he did. He thinks nine or ten since his freshman year. Newsies, which he starred in sophomore year, was his favorite.

Gagnon, along with 72 other seniors, graduated from Franklin High School on Friday night. In an outdoor ceremony on the football field, diplomas were awarded, tears shed and many rounds of applause heard – with one in particular for the clear skies and summer weather.

Before the 6 p.m. ceremony, graduates lined up in the cafeteria for their final moment as a group in the white brick hallways with blue and yellow stripes. A group of students made a final TikTok together, while others helped classmates adjust their decorated gaps.

Emily Holt’s cap was decorated with pink sparkles and a white flower. In black letters it reads, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

After graduation, Holt knows she wants to help make changes in people’s lives. She’s considering a degree in clinical psychology when she starts at NHTI in the fall.

Her favorite memory from senior year falls along a similar thread. It was when the Elks Club provided training for students at Franklin and nearby schools to become suicide prevention counselors.

“It was a chance to meet new people and learn something new,” she said.

Although some classmates, like Leia Donahue, will follow Holt to NHTI after a gap year, others will start their college careers out of state. Gagnon plans to attend the University of Massachusetts, Lowell in the fall in pursuit of a chemical engineering degree.

“I’m excited to get out on my own and experience life,” he said.

For valedictorian, Hannah Croteau, senior year was about resuming some sense of normalcy after two pandemic ridden high school years. This meant showing underclassmen students what traditions entailed, and reigniting the spirit of the senior class.

From winter carnival, to prom, to the senior barbeque and senior trip, Croteau reflected on the coveted traditions that were previously on hiatus. These events are what bonded the graduating class in their final year together.

Croteau says she cried at every senior event in the last week, cherishing her final moments with her classmates.

“I hope I don’t start crying as I give this speech,” she said at the beginning of her valedictorian address.

Growing up in the small city of Franklin meant knowing everyone in the tight knit community. Salutatorian Meghan Donahue recalled going on college tours and talking to other students who said they had a small graduating class. She would then ask how many, only to find out they meant 250 students per grade.

She said it’s hard for her to imagine not knowing all of her classmates.

“Growing up in a small town gives us a sense of community and identity,” she said in her speech.

It also means that students not only bond with their classmates, most of whom they’ve seen every day for 13 years, but also their teachers.

The class of 2022 asked Noah Lira, a social studies teacher at Franklin High, to give a speech at Friday’s graduation. What they learned in Principal Carrie Charette’s introduction of Lira, was that he was recently awarded New Hampshire’s Social Studies of the Year award.

Lira let the soon-to-be-graduates in on a few secrets now that they were about to become “adults.” It’s okay to crack your knuckles, he told them. And you can also turn the light on in the car at night, despite what parents may have once said.

Jokes aside, he also reminded graduates to cherish these last moments together, and that you never know what may happen next.

“If you told me that I would have become a teacher… I would have laughed in your face,” he said. “Savor this time you have together. Just because the time together ends doesn’t mean the memories do too.”

The graduates were not the only ones saying goodbye to Franklin High School at the ceremony. Principal Charette is leaving after 20 years at the school, Superintendent Daniel LeGallo announced in an email to families on June 9.

Before giving her final address, Charette recognized student’s achievements with awards and individual shoutouts. Charette awarded Holt the principal’s award for her resilience throughout her high school career.

In her final words to the graduates, , holding back tears, she reminded the class of 2022 to treat others the way they want to be treated.

Although many caps like Gagnon’s, which read “to infinity and beyond,” were decorated with messages about what’s to come, Charette reminded graduates no matter how far they venture, they’ll forever have a community in Franklin.

“You will always be golden tornadoes,” she said.


Michaela Towfighi is a Report for America corps member covering the Two New Hampshires for the Monitor. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in public policy and journalism and media studies in 2022. At Duke she covered education, COVID-19, the 2020 election and helped edit stories about the Durham County Courthouse for The 9th Street Journal and the triangle area's alt-weekly Indy Week. Her story about a family grappling with a delayed trial for a fatal car accident in Concord won first place in Duke’s Melcher Family Award for Excellence in Journalism. Towfighi is an American expat who calls London, England, home despite being born in Boston.

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