Laconia graduates told to believe in themselves, be the heroes of tomorrow

LACONIA — Members of the High School Class of 2013 received their diplomas during the 135th Commencement Exercise on Saturday morning. Keynote speaker and former School Board Chair Marge Kerns urged the graduating seniors to not only believe in themselves but also in the power of small groups.
Due to a forecast of poor weather conditions, the ceremony was moved from Opechee Park into the nearby Middle School gymnasium, where the bleachers were filled with family members and friends of the 130 graduates. 
Senior class officers Andrea Selesky and Hannah Fortson took to the stage to welcome Class of 2013 and introduce the members of the Laconia School Board. Their short introduction ended with samples of their infamous cheesy humor, and the podium was then handed over to LHS Principal Jim McCollum for the formal welcome address. His remarks began with hearty congratulations to the graduates, which lead into a brief recognition of retiring teachers Jim Chase, Scott Davis, Steve Snow, and Ed Fellona. A standing ovation was given to these remarkable teachers, who have dedicated many years of their lives to students at the high school.
Taking the stage to receive awards of excellence were Susannah O'Brien, the Class of 2013 valedictorian, Jasmine Blais, the 2013 salutatorian, and Andrew Kerns, the 2013 Class Essayist. O'Brien and Blais were presented with the valedictorian and salutatorian bowls, and Kerns was presented an inscribed silver plaque. While receiving their awards, McCollum congratulated the top three students for their remarkable achievement that was earned through their studiousness and upholding of academic excellence.
Tate Aldrich, an English teacher at LHS, provided a heartfelt and informative introduction for valedictorian O'Brien. Aldrich praised O'Brien for her remarkable academic achievements as a student, which include drum major, Student Council president, a member of National Honor Society, and recipient of the Bausch and Laumb Science award, the Harvard Book award, and the John Philip Sousa award. Aldrich concluded by stating O'Brien was unique not only in her outstanding achievements, but also in her willingness to "eagerly carry the weight of the world on her shoulders."
O'Brien began her speech stating she was attempting to follow the advice of her church choir director to, "Be brief, be brilliant, be gone!" She emphasized the importance of a strong communal foundation, on which our society should be built. Instead of striving to be the next Bill Gates, she encouraged her classmates to become the best mother, father, tradesmen or teacher that they possibly could be.
O'Brien further challenged her classmates to emulate their parents and role models in the community, so that one day they too can be the heroes of the next generation.
Keynote speaker Kerns focused on the importance of believing in oneself no matter what stage of life one is in. She urged the Class of 2013 to believe in the positive impact of small groups, as positive thoughts produce results.
Kerns claimed this "positive juju" is a key component to succeed in life. She concluded by encouraging the students to learn from their mistakes and always daring to dream.
Each speaker of the ceremony congratulated the Class of 2013 on their scholastic accomplishments, and as members of the community. Answering the question School Board Chair Joe Cormier posed during his address, "Who am I? Who do I want to be?", one can take from the ceremony that each student should strive to be the foundation of the community, because, as O'Brien stated, the "foundation of home does not shake."