John Stark student started his career with the fire industry last year, graduated Saturday 

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 06-10-2023 3:07 PM

The ground shook under the John Stark Regional High School football field on Saturday morning as the cannon sounded to honor the Henniker and Weare graduates of the class of 2023.

Gunpowder lingered in the air and confetti trickled onto spectators as the 140 graduates piled off the stage, diplomas in hand, to find their loved ones. But for Seth Boden, a quick hello to his family was overshadowed by his need to get to the fire truck waiting in the back parking lot.

He’d be riding alongside his Henniker Fire Department coworkers on Engine 2 in the graduation parade, and his dad would understand, having served in the fire industry for the last 32 years himself.

“Ever since I was seven or eight, I would always get really excited going to his firehouse to see him and talk with the guys and the crew on his shift,” Boden said. “In fifth or sixth grade, I took a field trip to the Henniker Fire Department, and the next week I went to the station and filled out paperwork to get on their explorer’s program.”

Inspired by his dad’s involvement in the fire industry and love for his community, Boden became certified as a basic EMT his junior year of high school and started working as on-call EMT at his local department. A few weeks ago, he received his basic firefighting certificate and plans to attend Lakes Region Community College in their fire service program, to live and work as a firefighter at Gilmanton Fire Department.

Because of his academic performance, he was awarded two scholarships to fund his EMT and firefighting trainings, he said.

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“If you asked me two years ago, I would have said it was pretty weird knowing what I wanted to do for a living right off the bat,” he continued. “Looking back and talking with my classmates, everyone kind of has a sense of what they want to do.”

Graduating alongside Boden were three students who are joining the military, four certified Eagle Scouts, another firefighter and 89 students who are attending college, including Valedictorian Jacqueline O’Donnell who will be studying biomedical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Salutatorian Samantha Veilleux who will be studying nursing at the University of New England. Cumulatively, the graduating class had a GPA of 3.53 which principal Gary Dempsey noted was impressive and commendable.

“Most of the time, high school goes slow and those four years feel like they’re never going to end,” Veilleux said in her speech to the class. “Those four years have come to a close and there is no other way I would have wanted it to go. Our memories were made during those slow times and I’m glad it felt like it would never end.”

But balancing school, a social life and a career were often difficult for Boden who had to miss out on social events to study or work, he said. Though not much of a socializer, Boden took what he learned through his studies and career and applied them to his interactions with his classmates, which led to more patient and understanding conversations.

“My high school experience was a lot more abnormal because I worked in the department and I would work shifts overnight and then come into school the next morning,” he said. “It wasn’t the average high school experience but it was great.”

Like many who graduated this weekend, Boden will miss his teachers, his education and his friends but he’s ready to start his career and leave behind the safety of his hometown.

“So where do we go now?” O’Donnell questioned. “I hope we can continue to grow as people, I hope we pursue our goals no matter what, I hope we stay true to ourselves and I hope we improve the new communities we are all entering.”

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