Hillsboro-Deering seniors take away 5 tools for post-graduation success

  • Hillsboro-Deering High School graduates make their entrance into the commencement ceremony on Friday, where friends and family were waiting. Photos by NICK REID / Monitor staff

  • Eighty-one graduating Hillsboro-Deering High School seniors make their way into the ceremony on Friday, June 10, 2016. NICK REID—Monitor staff

  • Violetbrook Minard’s graduation caps exclaims, “I’m free!” NICK REID—Monitor staff

  • Hillsboro-Deering High School graduates wade into the crowd to deliver flowers to their loved ones on Friday, June 10, 2016. NICK REID—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/10/2016 11:23:00 PM

In addition to their diplomas, salutatorian Leah Dunbar wanted to send off her fellow Hillsboro-Deering High School graduates with a metaphorical bag of gifts Friday.

Under the white tent pitched on the high school’s athletic fields, Dunbar recalled her first day of kindergarten, when her teacher handed each new student a goodie bag of 13 items, each with its own significance.

A sticker represented the quality of sticking together, a toothpick for picking out the goodness in each person, a chocolate kiss for comfort, and so on.

Dunbar said many of her 81 graduating peers in the tight-knit district have gone up through the grades together, remembering the importance of the traits those items represented. By the time they reached high school, she said, they entered as a bold and enthusiastic class that could only be described as “passionate, energetic and loud.”

But as they graduate more than a decade later – heading off to 24 different schools and three branches of the U.S. military – it’s time for another look at their bags of tricks, she said.

“Now that we’re graduating from high school, adulthood won’t meet us with the simplicity of kindergarten,” she said. “With all respect for and appreciation of my kindergarten teachers, I propose that it’s time for an update of these items.”

Dunbar’s list included: a mirror, to look back and remember where they’ve come from and what they’ve learned; a shovel, for the unfortunate but unavoidable obstacles, such as a nor’easter, that can only be conquered with unfaltering and gritty “Yankee perseverance”; some pennies, to help with the student loans and bills, and so they all have some “common cents”; and a piece of sandpaper, to smooth out the inevitable rough patches ahead.

Finally, Dunbar’s last inclusion was a nod to the music department, where each student traditionally decorates his or her own puzzle piece at the beginning of the year.

The pieces are placed on the wall to symbolize at once teamwork and individuality.

“It’s easy to find the perfect place for each person on the music department wall, but the puzzle of life is not so easily solved. It may be hard for each of us to find our right spot in the world, but just a like a real puzzle, the world would be fragmented without even a single person.

“With our outspoken and energetic attitudes, our class has truly made a mark on our school. We can continue to make a mark on the places we go by using our vocal reputation for good, speaking up on behalf of others and sharing ideas to make this world a better place,” she said.

John Bramley, a math and engineering teacher, said it’s “the beauty of a small school” that there’s such a close-knit community that he got to know each one of the graduating seniors. As they sat at his back in their red gowns with the sun setting behind them, he proved as much by listing off each one and the way he met them.

“The fact that I can go through the list of every graduating senior and have some connection to them in some fashion, that is why I’m here,” he said. “I love this school, I love you guys, all this stuff, love it.”

Bramley said he hopes the graduates will remember Hillsboro-Deering on their “path to greatness” and always remain “proud to be a Hillcat.”

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)

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