Friendship and camaraderie defines Hopkinton’s graduating class

Hopkinton High School graduate Katherine Brown will attend the University of Hawaii in the fall. “I’m not the biggest fan of cold weather. So I’m going to get a nice little break in the heat,” she said

Hopkinton High School graduate Katherine Brown will attend the University of Hawaii in the fall. “I’m not the biggest fan of cold weather. So I’m going to get a nice little break in the heat,” she said SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN—

 Hopkinton graduate Avery Condon sits with his classmates as they await the class photo in the gymnasium before the graduation ceremony on Friday.

Hopkinton graduate Avery Condon sits with his classmates as they await the class photo in the gymnasium before the graduation ceremony on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 06-08-2024 10:19 AM

Fitting in can be daunting for any high school student, but for Avery Condon, a senior at Hopkinton High School with Tourette’s syndrome, it could have been even more challenging.

But it wasn’t. His classmates embraced him wholeheartedly, never treating him differently when his tics appeared.

When Avery stepped up to receive his diploma at the rustic Durgin Pulling Arena at the Hopkinton Fairgrounds Friday night, his classmates and their families cheered him on.

“I could do anything in front of them, and they wouldn’t say a thing. They don’t have a reaction,” said Condon. “I don’t even remember the last time they judged me about it because it’s just such a normal thing for them now.”

Despite his disability, Condon is an athlete, excelling in multiple sports. In their tight-knit community, where many students have been friends since elementary school, Condon’s classmates are fiercely protective of him. If anyone from another district comments on his tics, they’re quick to defend him.

With a graduation cap adorned with the logo of his favorite hangout, McDonald’s, where he often shared post-game meals with his friends, Condon will head off to the University of New Hampshire, still unsure about his major.

However, in a decade’s time, his vision is clear.

“I see myself hopefully having a stable life and I want to build my own house,” he said.

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As Katherine Brown walked out of the graduation ceremony, where fairy lights curled around the structure’s beams, she was greeted by her family, who placed a garland of orchid flowers around her neck, symbolizing her next step to the University of Hawaii.

“I’ve always wanted to go Hawaii since I was younger,” Brown said with excitement. “I’m not the biggest fan of cold weather. So I’m going to get a nice little break in the heat.”

While Brown is thrilled about moving to the island state and embracing new adventures like surfing, she’s also nervous about leaving behind the friends she’s grown up with since the second grade.

“This is my first home. I think they are all my family,” she said, standing amid a sea of proud parents congratulating their children with tight hugs.

The graduation ceremony was not just a farewell for the students of Hopkinton High School’s class of 2024. It was also a moment for Melanie Thornely, an 8th-grade math teacher, and John Miner, an 8th-grade science teacher, to give their own goodbyes.

As they bid farewell, they each had a message for the graduating class.

“Just slow down. Don’t always be in a rush to get to the next big thing,” advised Thornely.

“Embrace each moment,” encouraged Miner.

As the graduates prepared to spread out to different corners of the country, each carrying their unique dreams and aspirations, the sentiment of unity remained strong.

While some have yet to choose a major, others, like class valedictorian Steph Elrick, have clear paths ahead.

Heading to Clarkson University to study engineering, Elrick addressed her classmates with a mixture of pride and nostalgia.

“We made it through high school, where we finally found our footing,” she said. “We figured some stuff out, even if it took a few tries.”