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With high school in their rearview mirror, graduates hit the open road

  • Hailey Cerrato outside her Dunklee Street home in Concord on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Cerrato is going to Colby College in Maine this fall and she wants to be a doctor. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hailey Cerrato outside her Dunklee Street home in Concord on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Cerrato is going to Colby College in Maine this fall and she wants to be a doctor. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sam Valas in his Bow home on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Valas is going to Boston University in the fall and plans on being a lawyer. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sam Valas in his Bow home on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Valas is going to Boston University in the fall and plans on being a lawyer. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Josh Pauley in the back yard of his home on South Street in Concord. Pauley plans on attending NHTI and is hopeful of his future but not sure he knows exactly what he wants to do . GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Josh Pauley in the back yard of his home on South Street in Concord. Pauley plans on attending NHTI and is hopeful of his future but not sure he knows exactly what he wants to do . GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sam Valas at his Bow graduation this spring. Bob McGrath Photography—Courtesy

  • Hailey Cerrato at the Concord High School graduation last Saturday at Memorial field. —Courtesy

  • Josh Pauley with his sister Rachel Pauley at the Concord High School graduation last Saturday. JANE PAULEY—Courtesy

  • Isaiah WinnettKnoy on South Main Street near his home on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. WinnettKnoy is going to University of St. Andrews University in Scotland this fall GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Isaiah WinnettKnoy at the Concord High School last Saturday. COURTESY—

  • Emily Soule at the Merrimack Valley High School graduation last Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Emily Soule outside Starbucks on Loudon Road on Concord on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff



Monitor columnist
Friday, June 22, 2018

Hailey Cerrato, who graduated from Concord High School this month, has terrific vision.

And it has nothing to do with her eyes.

This vision refers to looking ahead, seeing the bigger picture, imagining yourself in a new life, a new culture, perhaps even a new world.

“I’m a big planner,” Cerrato said, sitting on her porch on a flawless day this week. “A huge part of this is that I have a document where I’ve already planned out my classes for the next four years and how many credits I’ll have.”

She was one of five local 2018 graduates I spoke with this week. She’ll attend Colby College this fall. The other grads included Isaiah WinnettKnoy, who’s going to college in Scotland; Emily Soule, who’s heading to the University of New Hampshire; Boston University-bound Sam Valas; and Josh Pauley, who will attend NHTI.

They were born around the time we feared something called Y2K, that it might fool with our computer systems and destroy humanity. That didn’t happen, though.

Instead, New Year’s parties celebrating the new century came and went, humanity carried on in good and bad ways, and young adults like these were born, their personalities and opinions adding color to the world.

Soule said she misspoke for years, calling herself and fellow graduates millennials before being corrected.

“Generation Z,” she says now. “The cutoff for millennials was 1996.”

Soule, who graduated from Merrimack Valley High, is an old soul, a young woman who says technology is spinning the world too fast while acknowledging the wonderful impact it’s had on society. She calls it “intellectual and informational whiplash.”

“It’s a lot of information to digest,” Soule said over a strawberry smoothie in The Heights. “My generation is good at multitasking, but it’s added pressure and I’m feeling that.”

She remembers her parents using VCRs around the time she learned to walk. She remembers giant modems needed for computers. She marvels at her ability to watch movies on her iPhone, and chuckles at her grandfather’s attempts to use his.

And, like Cerrato, she has the focus of a high-powered microscope. Soule wants to go to law school. She wants to fix the justice system, which she says is unfair in the way it punishes those who are addicted to drugs. She wants to change the mindset of this country, wants the United States to learn from Portugal, where addiction is a sickness, not a crime.

“I want to bring knowledge and experience to fight the war on drugs,” Soule said. “Put human beings back into society instead of throwing them into prison with murderers.”

Cerrato, the planner, also sees change on the horizon, and she’s determined to be part of it. She wants to be an OB/GYN after studying medicine at Harvard and doing her residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

But Cerrato’s energy will be and has been directed all over the place. She’s researching renewable energy this summer at UNH. In the fall she’ll study anti-cancer drugs and their effects on enzymes. In high school she mentored Rundlett Middle School girls, instilling them with confidence.

Elsewhere, equal pay for women and affordable health care also widen her eyes. And then there’s the environment.

“That’s the largest danger,” Cerrato said. “We know what’s going on with it and we choose to be ignorant.”

Her worldwide concerns are shared by Isaiah WinnettKnoy, who participated in the Model United Nations Club at Concord High.

That gave him an opportunity to create and express different voices, depending on which country he was representing. He defended the flow of immigrants into Germany, telling me, “It’s from the standpoint of Angela Merkel. The economy after (World War II) was boosted by Turkish refugees, who built them into a powerhouse.”

But he also spoke for North Korea, saying it would “side with any country that is not an imperialist, capitalist swine.

“Sometimes if it’s good enough, we’ll get into a lot of arguing,” WinnettKnoy said. “It helps, because I can argue North Korea launching missiles at the United States and then argue for getting the car that night.”

He chose the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland because of its international relations and economics majors, plus “it’s really green, beautiful.”

He sees himself affiliated with international marketing or the world bank, and already his eye is on Kashmir, which he says is an untapped market.

“I’m a big free-trade guy,” WinnettKnoy said. “A lot of tariffs should be taken down and we need more trade to open lesser known parts of the world.”

Valas’s interests are global, too. He studied advanced placement European history at Bow High, focusing on the years from 1400 to 2000. 

Political science and law school are in his future, and he’s not shying away from politics, despite its divisive nature these days.

Asked whether he’d consider a run for the White House, Valas said, “We’ll see in 2036. Maybe if I’m not doing something else. It will probably be a lot different. Hopefully it will be a lot more efficient in Congress.”

He said he became interested in politics as a sophomore at Bow High. He said he’d like to take partisan politics out of politics. He said it bothers him that today’s youths refuse to hold themselves accountable.

“We need to start taking more responsibility,” Valas said. “Kids are spoiled and immediately blame society and the culture.”

Valas has seen the good in people and says he can spot kindness, true kindness, with the help of his 15-year-old sister, Emma, who has Down syndrome.

“It’s a lot easier to spot people who are good people,” Valas said. “People with disabilities get picked on and it made me notice because I’m so close with Emma. I think there are a lot of good people my age.”

Some his age are taking life as it comes. Sort of rolling with the punches.

Josh Pauley, a Concord High grad, is an example of that, calling himself a, “go-with-the-flow type of guy.”

Pauley’s plan is to earn his associate degree at NHTI, but that’s the scope of his planning at this point.

“I did not find my STEM field early in life,” he said.

Pauley says he wasn’t a great student at Concord High, which has encouraged him to at least consider a trade job. He mentioned an electrician’s license, saying he could “be making a good salary in my 20s.”

Whatever he chooses, Pauley didn’t seem too worried. He knows he doesn’t have the corporate mentality. He’s fine with that.

“For some people, that is a method that works,” Pauley said. “I don’t think that’s me.”

If you want focus and passion from Pauley, mention the state of today’s country. He pulls no punches here, comparing America’s direction with Nazi Germany. He is, in a word, political.

“I’m having flashbacks to times that I wasn’t even alive for,” Pauley said. “Immigrants effectively thrown into concentration camps along our border. That’s SS stuff. That’s some Third Reich stuff.”

He wrote a poem about last year’s Las Vegas massacre and called it “Six Degrees of Separation”. “I could tie myself to someone who took a bullet in the forehead,” Pauley said.

He mentioned his Jewish faith and the potential for another Holocaust in this country. He hopes his generation will change the landscape of the United States.

“I want my generation to say, ‘Okay, you had your turn,’ ” Pauley said.

But that’s in the future, and Pauley doesn’t look too far ahead. It’s simply not his style.

Told about Cerrato’s carefully laid-out 12-year plan, Pauley cited the dental appointment he missed that day.

“How am I going to plan the next 12 years of my life when I can’t even remember my own dentist appointment?” Pauley asked. “But I’ll be okay. I brush my teeth.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304, rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)