John Stark graduation ceremony was back to normal – including the cannon

  • Seniors head to their seats in the graduation ceremony for John Stark Regional High School on June 11. Read about its ceremony on A4. Courtesy

  • John Stark school board Chair Zach Lawson hugs stepdaughter Quince Kirtland while delivering diplomas. June 11,2022 Patti Osgood—Courtesy

  • Annabel Poehlman takes a selfie with her diploma as Superintendent of SAU 24 Jacqueline Coe looks on. Patti Osgood—Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 6/11/2022 3:18:01 PM
Modified: 6/11/2022 3:15:43 PM

As if the class of 2022 didn’t have enough to overcome, John Stark High School’s most unusual graduation tradition almost fell victim to global supply-chain problems.

For more than three decades, graduations at the high school for Weare and Henniker students has culminated in the firing of a cannon recovered from the bottom of Portsmouth Harbor. Even during the pandemic, when the ceremony moved online, it fired away.

But until early this week it wasn’t clear that the cannon would roar in 2022 because of an national shortage of black powder. Only a scramble among gun shops and military acquaintances scrounged together enough for the ceremony.

The 35th John Stark graduation saw 125 seniors get diplomas under perfect weather on the Generals’ athletic field, the first time since 2019 that it was back in traditional form.

“It’s good to close off with a normal graduation ceremony,” said senior Emily Roy of the student council in her comments.

Many students speakers referenced how the pandemic had scrambled their time in school.

“It wasn’t until sophomore year that the normal high school experience changed into a new normal,” said salutatorian Gracie Bolduc of Weare. “It was a regular spring day, with whispers of a virus rapidly spreading. I was in chemistry class … trying to perform a titration lab – the last day we were ever in school that year.”

But despite COVID-19, all agreed their school experience was special.

“My grandpa always says life is about memories, and that is exactly what I have been making during these years. Looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said senior Diana Stafford.

Stafford and Isabella Pelletier, both of Weare, were selected as this year’s class speakers by John Stark faculty and staff. That’s the first time there has been a tie when selecting the student who most embodies the school’s vision of a learner who engages their mind in the pursuit of individual academic growth, social awareness, and community involvement with regard, respect, and integrity.

In earlier comments, valedictorian Grace Caplan of Henniker mentioned how COVID’s impact on high school wasn’t entirely negative.

“The schedule that we had last year (a hybrid of two days in school and three days remote) was sometimes difficult, but the balance of free time where we could shape our own time was so impactful. It showed me how much better school could be designed for the well-being of the students,” Caplan said.

“You are coming of age at a unique time,” said Dr. Jacqueline Coe, superintendent of schools.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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