05-24 GHStop 10

The top ten graduating seniors from Gilford High School. Front row; left to right: Claire Bartley; Nicole Green; Shealagh Brown; Harper Meehan; Marlow Mikulis. Back row; left to right: Mackenzie Roys; Jacqueline Wright; Avery Marshall; Reece Sadler; Esther Wrobel. (Catherine McLaughlin/The Laconia Daily Sun photo)

GILFORD — The top ten graduates from Gilford High School have, to put it gently, been through a lot. But though they spent time distanced from their school and each other, the ten young women leading their class have much in common.

They are career-minded and driven, having formed their goals through participation in school internship programs and studying at the Huot Technical Center. They have relieved stress and maintained motivation through sport and exercise. They are engaged in their academic and local communities through a range of clubs and jobs. They are strongly drawn toward paths in the STEM and education fields. They are team captains, troupe leaders and club officers. 

They are also historically unique: as the last class to experience a full year of pre-pandemic high school, they know what it means to be resilient, adaptable and patient. 

Valedictorian Shealagh Brown made the most of Gilford’s relatively small size. “Because it’s a small school you get the opportunity to do all the things that you want to,” she said. 

Brown – as a National Honor Society (NHS) president, varsity athlete in field hockey, alpine skiing and track, multi-sport team captain, club ski racer, secretary of the Environmental Club and active in the French Club – certainly walks the walk of being involved. 

Brown is driven by passion: because of her love for skiing and the outdoors she will pursue a degree in environmental science at the University of Vermont. She dreams of being an environmental sustainability consultant for a ski mountain. 

Salutatorian Avery Marshall also saw the opportunities to explore at a smaller school like Gilford. “I liked the freedom of senior year,” she said, describing how the flexibility of academic structures encouraged students to follow their passions. For Marshall, that meant math and science courses: she is preparing to enter an honors science program at Connecticut College. Studying biology on a pre-med track, Marshall aims to become a pediatrician. 

“I have always loved kids,” she said. “And I’ve always loved science. So this just puts those two together.” Marshall also captains the varsity tennis team, is the senior class treasurer, plays varsity soccer, competes on the math team and is vice president of the French Club. 

For much of the top ten, internships informed what they want to pursue – one way or the other.

Reece Sadler will attend Bentley University studying finance and pre-law in the hopes of continuing work she began as an intern in real estate.

She came to Gilford High as a new student, moving to the area from Nebraska just before ninth grade. Sadler said she was unaccustomed to, but came to value, the comparatively small student population at Gilford. “Everyone, even teachers I didn’t have, knows who I am, compared to the school in my old town, where I wouldn’t have even known everyone in my class,” Sadler said. 

Jacqueline Wright still has a passion for aviation after her internship with the Laconia Municipal Airport, but she realized that her career interests instead lay in constitutional law. She will be a political science major at Stonehill College in Massachusetts on a pre-law track. 

“I want to be a bridge between the people and the government,” and “experience the political system, be a part of it,” Wright said.

Marlow Mikulis will join the architecture program at Syracuse University. She said she enjoys the intersection between creativity, digital work, and on-site engagement of this field, something she discovered through an architecture class at GHS and an internship. 

For Mackenzie Roys, dance has been a stress outlet during the pandemic as well as an opportunity for growth: she teaches younger students and even interned at her home studio, Dancing Feet in Laconia. Roys, who – in addition to dancing for over fifteen years – is an enthusiastic photographer and member of the GHS choir, interned in a sixth grade math class.

Roys realized that she wants to be a high school math teacher in her hometown – while teaching dance on the side, of course. She will attend Plymouth State University majoring in math, minoring in dance and earning her teaching certification. 

Other members of the top ten have similar intentions to settle locally and give back to their home communities.

Claire Bartley, after getting hooked on med tech work in a Huot program, will study medical technology at UNH Manchester.

“Coming from Gilmanton, which is such a tight knit community,” she said, “I want to give back in a big picture way.” Bartley is also a dedicated swimmer and member of the National Technical Honor Society and NHS. 

Esther Wrobel aspires to be a seventh- or eighth-grade science teacher, and will study secondary science education at NHTI next year. Wrobel has maintained steady work throughout high school, though she said dog-sitting was her favorite. 

Wrobel said she has four older sisters who already graduated from GHS. Though they let her know the ins and outs of the school, Wrobel said, she is looking forward to it being her turn. 

“They’ll be at my graduation this time,” she said. 

Other members of the top ten are eager to explore distant horizons. 

Nicole Green, a longtime dancer and basketball player, is looking forward to the year-round warm weather at Southeastern University in Florida next year. She will major in elementary education, inspired by her own second grade teacher in Westerlo, New York. 

Harper Meehan, a varsity volleyballer, alpine skier and member of the NHS, will study aviation management and flight operations at Jacksonville University, following a long line of aviators in her family.

Meehan transferred to Gilford from the New Hampton School as a junior. She said she is grateful for the genuine, close community bonds she formed while at GHS and for sport programs, which were a release for her during pandemic stress. “Sports helped a lot,” she said. “They gave me something to look forward to every day, something to focus on.” 

All of the top ten said that sports, dance or exercise had helped carry them through the tougher times of the pandemic. They also said teachers Louise Jagusch and Amie Edmunds were mentors that helped support and guide them the most. 

Gilford was able to remain mostly in person after the spring of 2020, but even for students learning remotely, the pandemic posed personal, mental and academic challenges few previous classes experienced. 

“I am so impressed by the resiliency that this group of seniors has shown,” said Principal Anthony Sperazzo in an email. “They have arguably been dealt the most difficult two years of their lives due to the pandemic. I think that being thrown these major curveballs at such a young age, they will forever be flexible in how they manage situations thrown their way.” 

“They're just young adults that wanted to have normalcy. They have bright futures and we are so eager to hear the stories they create down the road.”


(1) comment


Where have all e boys gone??

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