Belmont high school's class of 2023 becomes first to graduate with new mascot

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 06-17-2023 12:38 PM

One thing that truly fills Kimberly McWhinnie with a deep sense of pride is being able to say she graduated Belmont High as a fox, the school’s new mascot.

With almost four years of passionate engagement in school board meetings and discussions, the student-led organization BRASS (Belmont Representatives Advocating for Student Success) had successfully brought about a long-awaited change: the retirement of the controversial Native American mascot, the Red Raiders, in favor of a new symbol — the fox, just in time for graduation.

“I was so happy to finally see a change and I’m so glad to be graduating because it’s a big accomplishment,” said McWhinnie, the senior class vice president, as she gathered with her loved ones, teachers and friends moments before the graduation ceremony in the high school’s packed gymnasium. “I’m going to see my diploma and not have to think of the Native American hat – I’m going to think of the fox.”

As the graduating class assembled for one last time before embarking on their separate paths, Martina Corfonto stood out. While her peers set their sights on joining the workforce, enlisting in the military, or pursuing higher education, Confronto’s next adventure awaited her in another country, Italy, her home. 

“It was like an impulsive idea,” said Confronto who made the decision to move to a new country during her third year of high school as a foreign exchange student, sparked by a conversation with her friend who shared her experiences as a student in the United States.

At first, it took Corfonto a while to adapt. Everything seemed completely unfamiliar, from the structure of classes to the mix of freshmen, seniors, juniors and sophomores all together in classes.

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After finding her footing, Confronto loved the experience and with the help of her students and teachers, she learned to speak English fluently.

“The teachers here are really helpful,” said Confronto, expressing her admiration for the teachers at the school who were unlike the serious and strict teachers she was accustomed to in Italy. “Here, they are like your friends, you have fun with teachers.”

Upon returning to Italy,  Confronto will have another year of schooling ahead of her, as high school education spans five years in the country. Playfully, she joked that she would claim to be even more intelligent, having graduated twice.

With his customary approach of selecting a theme for his speeches, Principal Mathew Finch continued the tradition at the graduation ceremony for the class of 2023.

At Friday’s ceremony, Finch delivering an address that centered around the risks associated with enduring regret.

“If you don’t [try], then you won’t have any ideas of what you can do, sometimes you come out ahead, sometimes you won’t. But you’ll regret it when you try a whole lot less than when you don’t,” said Finch, encouraging students to explore every possibility and seize opportunities, even in the face of failure.

Among the 82 graduating students, five have chosen to serve in the armed forces.

In addition to acknowledging accomplishments, Salutatorian Tanner McKim and Valedictorian William Riley, Carly Drouin and Alfred Mourin were honored with the Raider Resilience Award. The award celebrates the unwavering perseverance and commitment demonstrated by these exceptional students throughout their high school journey.

Right before the students received their diplomas, a flower ceremony provided an opportunity for the graduates to express their appreciation to the individuals who have supported them throughout their journey.

Among those who made a profound impact on the students’ lives were the teachers who were presented flowers and embraced the graduates with hugs showing their gratitude.

With her sights set on pursuing a bachelor's degree in biology at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, McWhinnie expressed her appreciation for her class advisors, emphasizing her commitment to staying connected with them as she prepared for the next chapter in her life. 

“I really plan on staying in touch with them,” said McWhinnie. “I’m really grateful to them, they are amazing.”

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