By BRENDAN SORRELL, special to THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Senior Awards and Scholarship Night at Laconia High School is an opportunity to recognize the hard work, kindness, and community involvement of seniors about to graduate. It is an event made possible by the generous contributions of the community they honor us by representing, and by the faculty and staff that have guided them through the four years at Laconia High School. Still, the event was all about celebrating the achievements of the seniors present, achievements viewers in the audience could both be proud of and inspired by.
Before the Scholarships and awards were handed out, there were two speeches given. The keynote speaker for the evening was Steve Tucker, Laconia High School's academic coordinator, who is completing his 21st and final year of distinguished service to the Laconia School District. He was introduced by Assistant Principal David Bartlett, who spoke of his memories running with Tucker earlier in their careers, comparing his athletic experience to the academic experiences many students have experienced under Tucker's tutelage.
"As we would run," Bartlett reminisced, "Steve would say, 'if we take a left here it'll be a quarter of a mile, no big deal'... 'Hey, if we take a right here up this incline (Mile Hill in the South End) it'll only be an extra half a mile.'" In both cases, Bartlett said his pride would kick in and he would say, "Sure Steve," and follow him on the new route. "That 3-mile light jog we were initially supposed to take would turn into an 8 to 9 mile test of my fitness," he said.
This anecdote was told at the outset of his speech because Bartlett felt as though his experience mirrored that which students of Tucker have experienced themselves.
"In his first 17 years as a teacher, he ran beside his students," Bartlett said, "challenging them to achieve academic excellence at every turn. Expecting more of them than they did of themselves, but the whole time running beside them, supporting them, and helping them achieve more than they thought possible." For those of us who know Tucker, it would be hard to disagree.
Tucker's speech set the tone for the evening, talking mostly about the community the students being recognized were brought up in and what they have thus far and will continue to do for that community.
"When you think about it," he began, "there are many examples of Americans being disengaged from the community: we're a deck culture rather than a front-porch culture. Instead of going to the movies, we have home entertainment systems, we shop online instead of in stores, for some class reunions some people don't attend by saying they can 'see' their friends on Facebook..." the list went on.
As his speech progressed, he used this clearly apparent fact that we are less engaged in our communities to emphasize the achievements of many of the students who were receiving awards on the basis of what they mean to their school community and achievements the community has made as a whole.
"Communities are ... shaped by words," Tucker went on to say. He then asked the students in attendance: "When you think back to your time in this community, what will be the words that you use to describe it?" Some words could be about the challenges that affect the community.
"Our school is in an old building," Tucker said, "and we're faced with some serious budget issues."
The story, as exemplified by the students present at the event, can be quite different. "While these words certainly contain truths," Tucker continued, "why do they have to be the only words that define our community? When I hear these words, there are other truths that are missed. Laconia High School is a showcased school at a national conference in Texas and was recognized by the New Hampshire Department of Education because of its work by students and teachers on performance based assessment."
While the work of all students at Laconia High School contributed to what Tucker spoke of, those present to receive scholarships and awards contributed greatly to the crafting of those truths.
Whatever words the Class of 2016 use to describe their high school years, the words of Salutatorian Elizabeth Davis will be remembered.
"Those of you who know Elizabeth," Tucker said, "know that laughter is her default response to almost everything she does. Don't be misled (by her laughter)," he went on. "In fact, she is highly intelligent, high performing, broad-minded and assiduous."
As salutatorian, it was apparent to everyone that Davis is a learner. Therefore, she decided to share her talent for humor in her speech by dismissing some truths she's been taught from a young age. She was told she'd need to know cursive, but spent more time tracing such letters than she spent writing her name on the SAT. She was told money doesn't grow on trees, but said that planting one can increase the shade provided to your house and decrease your cooling bill. She was told that not wearing a coat in the winter will cause you to catch cold, but cited that we catch more colds in the winter because we are in close proximity indoors which causes viruses to be transmitted. During the whole course of her speech, it was the laughter that was infectious.
The night that followed featured too many scholarship recipients to count, a true testament to the community involvement and scholarship of those present, as well as the generosity of our local community.
The senior awards ceremony for Laconia High School took place Thursday, June 9. (Brendan Sorrell/for The Laconia Daily Sun)