LACONIA – With the willing assistance of the Huot Technical Center Culinary Arts Program, the top ten graduates of the Laconia High School Class of 2015 took the time to honor their teachers and parents Tuesday night.
Each student chose the teacher who was most influential in their accomplishments and that teacher spoke briefly about that student, lauding his or her personality, identifying traits that led him or her to academic achievement.
Principal Jim McCollum said the evening was designed to recognize teacher, students and parents – who accompanied their children to the event. "When the three come together, the student always wins," McCollum said.
In order of class rank, the top ten students of the Class of 2015 are Class Valedictorian Anne Dionne, Class Salutatorian Lily Chanthasak, Class Essayist Michaela Sorrell, Erin Cashman, Troy Harper, Megan Long, Josh Morel, Cheyenne Simkins, Alana Persson and Michael O'Brien.
The awards were given Tuesday evening in the reverse order, with music teacher Debbie Gibson introducing Michael "Mikey" O'Brien as a caring, dedicated, hard-working young man who has set high goals for himself.
"Mikey is also goofy, silly and forgetful," Gibson said, adding no matter what he does, she can't get mad at him. She also credited his large, close-knit family as one of the things that made him an extraordinary person.
In turn, O'Brien told Gibson that without her support, he never would have accomplished many of his achievements. A bass player, O'Brien is planning on being a music teacher.
English teacher Tate Aldrich introduced Class President Alana Persson as a magnetic and mature person with a burdensome course load, many extra curricular activities who also has a reporter's job with the Laconia Daily Sun.
He lauded her global awareness that is being capped by a year-long tour of the world with Up With People. Persson will attend American University after her return.
Persson credited Tate with making her love reading and the English language. She remembers meeting him in eighth grade when she visited one of his classes. "In that one class, I never saw a teacher who was so 'electric,'" she said.
Math teacher Rebekah Patel introduced Cheyenne Simkins as a young woman who she first thought was shy but later saw her bloom into a natural leader who excelled in math. Simkins will continue her education at Wesleyan College.
Simkins told the crowd that she had heard Patel was "really mean" but after taking her classes she realized Patel was a dedicated teacher who made her love math. She said Patel would help her for an hour after class and during her free time so she could understand a particular math concept.
"We blended well," Simkins said, crediting Patel with helping her decide to become a special education teacher.
Business teacher Janine Farrah was chosen by Megan Long as her most influential teacher. Farrah said Long was a initially shy and gullible, but grew into a mature young lady as she progressed in school. Farrah credited Long's parents for raising such a fine girl.
Long credited Farrah with taking her under her wing and as a teacher who would do anything for anyone. She said Farrah helped her prepare for college, and was not just a teacher but also like a second mother to her.
Science teacher Ivy Leavitt-Carlson introduced Josh Morel as someone who was quiet and focused. She said she initially warmed to him because he laughed at her jokes. She said when she was told by another teacher that "Josh was not a science kid" she was very surprised because he always did so well in her class.
"He's careful, reflective and has an amazing memory," she said. "He exemplifies what it means to be a science kid," she said, adding he makes his decisions based on data.
Morel, who wants to be a science teacher, said Leavitt-Carlson is an amazing person, adviser and friend. She is someone he aspires to be like and said he was very influenced by the time she spent in the U.S. Peace Corps helping other people.
Math teacher Bonnie Ashworth introduced Troy Harper as someone who is as analytical as she is. She said he has a thirst for knowledge, a problem solver and a scientist. Ashworth said he would be going to Boston University.
Harper told the crowd he had written a speech so he might as well read it. With the dry humor Ashworth so enjoys, he thanked her for pushing him to realize his true abilities. He also noted she frequently buys his fellow students ice cream.
Citizenship and world history teacher Chris Ulrich introduced Erin Cashman as a girl who had a plan and stuck with it to the point where she was accepted as a junior into the University of Pittsburgh. With a desire to become a doctor, she passed on the summer program at St. Paul's to concentrate on shadowing physicians – something she had been doing since her sophomore year.
Cashman said it was an honor to be recognized and that Ulrich instilled in her a passion for learning. A member of the Key Club, she thanked him for being their adviser and for taking so much time to offer generously of himself.
Humanities and psychology teacher Rick Crawford introduced future doctor Michaela Sorrell as one of the nicest and kindest people he's ever taught. He said she has a "steel trap" for a mind.
"She's not snobby. She's taking notes," he said, noting she enjoys studying the human condition.
Crawford also noted that Sorrell comes to good conclusions on her own and, like most 18-year-olds, doesn't need or want to be spoon-fed information.
Sorrell said she met Crawford when she was a sophomore and knew he had a long relationship with her family and was initially intimidated about living up to the family name.
She said Crawford understands different learning styles and credited him with encouraging her interests in psychology and biology. Sorrell will attend Boston College.
Salutatorian Lily Chanthasak was introduced by French teacher Tracie Corbett who described Chanthasak's French abilities as a freshman as nothing she had ever seen before.
While Corbett said she was a little disappointed to learn Chanthasak was going into pharmacy and not languages, she credited her with being one of her students who actually corrected her French.
Chanthasak said Corbett made her love the French language, and though she will be studying pharmacology she will continue to pursue French. She said Corbett was passionate about teaching and language and that will stay with her forever.
Academic Coordinator Steve Tucker introduced Class Valedictorian Anne Dionne in a way he said she would understand best – by recreating the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds she had been studying at LHS.
He said he suspects that she exceeded the national homework average weekly hours of 6.8 by a considerable amount. He said Dionne has focus and diligence and refuses to do anything half-way. At one point, she worked on a project to improve a section of Union Avenue by working with the city, zoning laws, statistics and geography. "She has poise and grace," he said.
Dionne had Tucker for a history teacher before he became the academic coordinator. She credited him for teaching her thought-provoking political and economic issues in Laconia and elsewhere.
"Without Mr. Tucker, I never would have achieved my college mission," said Dionne, who will attend University of Rhode Island School of Pharmacy.
The Class of 2015 graduates June 6 at 10 a.m. at the Jim Fitzgerald football field.