Kearsarge graduation: ‘You feel like you’re more family than just classmates’

Kearsarge Regional High School graduate Brianna Thompson shouts to her friends in the audience after receiving her high school diploma at the school on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

Kearsarge Regional High School graduate Brianna Thompson shouts to her friends in the audience after receiving her high school diploma at the school on Saturday, June 8, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Kearsarge Regional High School graduate Thomas Shepard speaks to the crowd during his student address at the school graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

Kearsarge Regional High School graduate Thomas Shepard speaks to the crowd during his student address at the school graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 8, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Kearsarge Regional High School graduate Caroline Gong Allen waves to her friends in the audience after receiving her high school diploma at the school on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

Kearsarge Regional High School graduate Caroline Gong Allen waves to her friends in the audience after receiving her high school diploma at the school on Saturday, June 8, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Kearsarge Regional High School graduate Thomas Shepard smiles after receiving his high school diploma at the school on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

Kearsarge Regional High School graduate Thomas Shepard smiles after receiving his high school diploma at the school on Saturday, June 8, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By SOPHIE LEVENSON

Monitor staff

Published: 06-08-2024 4:12 PM

Modified: 06-08-2024 4:56 PM


A line of five-year-old future Kearsarge Regional High School graduates trotted slowly down the blue-carpet in the middle of the school’s football field. Rather than caps and gowns, the dozen or so students wore oversized white t-shirts emblazoned with the words, “KRHS Class of 2036.”

Every year at graduation, the kindergarten contingent of Kearsarge Regional School District joins the senior members of the high school choir in a performance of “God Bless America.” Because so many students have been in the same district their whole lives, many of Saturday’s graduates can look at the kindergarten performers and remember being in their shoes.

Chloe Ogmundson is one of those students. Her mother, Sara Colson, has a photo of her daughter walking next to a senior when she was in kindergarten. She had Ogmundson recreate the photo, this time dressed in blue robes.

While Ogmundson and her classmates gathered in the gym and parents filled the folding chairs outside, Colson reflected on her daughter’s big day.

“She’s looking forward to next steps,” Colson said. In the fall, Ogmundson will start at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., where she will study to become a pastry chef.

Culinary education is one of the many routes that Kearsarge’s 114 graduates will pursue after graduation. The Cougars have a vast range of interests, something many of them attributed to the school’s encouraging environment.

“High school was about finding our voices,” said Candace Wescom, a student speaker and this year’s recipient of the Alex Gissler Scholarship. “There is no universally correct way to live a life that is solely your own. Every human being has different goals, different concepts of what happiness and success look like, and a different vision of what it looks like to truly be alive.”

Virtually every graduate had the same answer to the question, “What makes Kearsarge special?” It was always “The community.”

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“You feel like you’re more family than just classmates,” Alex Tockman, who is headed to Merrimack College for hospitality management.

His friend Charlie Reeve, Vice President of the graduating class, agreed. He’s headed to Syracuse University to study sports management, motivated by his experience with high-school sports.

“The sports programs here — basketball and golf, for me — really helped me grow,” Reeve said.

For Class President Tori Montagna, that same sense of community has defined her high school experience. She served as the head of student government for the last three years and was vice president before that.

“I’m just so proud to be a part of this group of people,” Montagna said. She will attend the University of New Hampshire in the fall, where she plans to study business.

Montagna repeatedly referenced Kearsarge’s “Carnival” in her remarks to the class. She considers it emblematic of her grade’s closeness and spirit: The Carnival is a day of athletic and artistic competitions between the classes, almost always dominated by the senior class. But the 2024 group usurped the seniors when they were juniors, then claimed another victory this year.

“I guess it might be a good thing that we’re graduating,” Montagna said. “Maybe give another grade a shot, for once.”

Before principal Charles Langille, Jr., would declare the class officially graduated, he gave his students one final task: Take a Kearsarge-yellow rose, find someone you love, and present the flower as a gift. For ten minutes, graduates ran around under a whisper of rain, handing flowers to each other, to parents, to friends. Then they all sat down together, one last time.

A confetti cannon boomed, launching blue and yellow into the air. The class of 2024 tossed up their caps. Men in kilts blew into bagpipes, and the class walked, as one, into the world.