Franklin High School graduates learn a spoiler alert: “your purpose is not your job.”

By JACQUELINE COLE

Monitor staff

Published: 06-17-2023 4:21 PM

As a young boy, Aidan West was fascinated by fire trucks.

As he stood at Franklin High School’s graduation, not much had changed.

“Ever since he’s been alive, he’s known me as his firefighter grandfather,” said Tom Ferguson, West’s grandfather.

West moved from Concord to Franklin during his freshman year of high school. His transition to a new school went smoothly, despite occasional nerves. His plans after graduation are to work for a few years to pocket money and then to pursue his dream of firefighting, just like his grandfather.

When West was little, he would go to the station at the Bow Fire Department with Ferguson as often as he could.

“Ever since I was little, I just wanted to do it, too,” said West.

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Thanks to his time at Franklin High School, that dream is within reach.

During his senior year at Franklin, West participated in a program called Extended Learning Opportunities, which allowed him to intern in an industry of his choice. He chose to spend six weeks working with the Franklin Fire Department.

Once a week after school, West hung out at the department, shadowing firefighters and going on calls with the team. Eventually, by the end of the six weeks, they trusted him to handle equipment and open the truck doors to get stretchers out during emergency calls.

“It was really cool, and it really helped me see what the job was like and that I really do want to do it,” said West.

He graduated on Friday evening inside of Franklin Middle School among 43 other members of the class of 2023.

Earlier on Friday, this group of graduates did their “senior walk.” Accessorized in full cap and gown attire, they walked through their elementary and middle schools, passing younger students who could see their potential future in this graduating class. At 6 p.m., their walk continued in front of hundreds of proud friends and family to receive their diplomas.

Valedictorian Lily Johnson addressed the class, detailing her impressive academic accomplishments — a GPA over 4.5, taking classes with juniors as a freshman and almost graduating early but deciding to stay at Franklin because being around kids her age is important to her.

Through technical difficulties with a faulty microphone, Johnson delivered a speech that encouraged fellow graduates to stay focused and motivated.

“It will not harm you to have a little bit less of a social life,” said Johnson. She noticed her own tendencies to study while her friends socialized and is happy with the way she navigated that balance in high school.

“Stay curious and question things,” she said. “Developing an inquisitive perspective can change your worldview.”

Jonhson will go on to Dartmouth College in the fall.

Keynote speaker Jen Schongalla, who is a Spanish teacher at Franklin High, took to the podium for a vibrant, amusing speech, catered toward the students and sprinkled with whispers to the graduates and inside jokes.

She started off her speech with a version written by ChatGPT, as suggested by one of her students.

“Estoy kidding!” she yelled, sending giggles throughout the audience, especially from the younger crowd.

“Spoiler alert,” she told them. “Your purpose is not your job.”

She reminded the students not to “confuse how you put food on the table with your actual purpose.”

Principal David Levesque and Assistant Principal Shawn Quinn handed out awards to graduates, including the drama award, the unsung hero award and the faculty recognition award.

After students shook hands and received their diplomas, it was time to celebrate. All 43 graduates tossed their caps into the air, camera flashes lighting up the large space, which was held inside at the middle school due to rain.

Tom Ferguson was in the audience, watching his first of 10 grandkids graduate from high school.

“We’re just letting him find himself, and if (being a firefighter) is how he ends up wanting to go, he’ll have our full backing,” he said.

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