Odes to Harry Potter, accolades to fellow students, flying beach balls, and hopes and dreams were all presented during Concord High School’s graduation ceremony on June 19, as more than 400 students set a course for future endeavors including college, military service, and employment.
Class Secretary and wrestler Jordan Bodwell welcomed his fellow students saying it was a great honor to be speaking to them. But he added that it was unusual to be welcoming the class to its own graduation.
“To the class of 2011, I simply nod,” he said. “You understand what it has taken to get to this point.”
Bodwell paid tribute to those who had been lost during the last year and closed by paraphrasing from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961, a speech he studied in the 10th grade: “Let us begin … the rest of our lives.”
Senior James Bujold was given the task of introducing the keynote speaker, San Antonio Spurs basketball player Matt Bonner, a CHS graduate and valedictorian from 1999. He said while Bonner was a great athlete and worked hard, what was most impressive was his commitment and dedication to his hometown of Concord. Bujold noted that just last week, Bonner took time out of his busy schedule to serve food to attendees at a fundraiser for The Friendly Kitchen. He also commended Bonner for holding an annual summer camp for kids.
“Matt doesn’t flaunt his generosity,” Bujold said. “He doesn’t volunteer to make himself look good or make a statement. He does it simply because he cares about the Concord community.”
Bonner gave a raucous and hilarious speech, literally pushing himself to the mic in a mock wrestling match with a man who stated that the NBAer was too busy to attend the ceremony. Bonner congratulated the graduating class and thanked everyone for showing up instead of attending the Bruins parade in Boston. He also apologized for not being Adam Sandler and said everyone would have to accept the fact that he was the second most popular CHS graduate – behind Mike “Boogie” Carri of the “Big Brother” reality series.
“I love being back in Concord,” he said. “I can hit my favorite spots like the Yellow Sub … do you know that there are two of them now?”
Bonner shared his fondness for growing up in Concord, enjoying ultimate Frisbee games at Memorial Field, getting pelted by upper classmen with eggs, and attending footballs games. He said it was amazing how many things had changed since moving back.
“Gas was $1 a gallon,” he said, “MTV still played music videos and the Old Man on the Mountain was still standing strong.”
Bonner lamented that he grew up in an age when students didn’t have cellphones, there was no texting or Facebook, and in a time where if you wanted to make an appointment with someone, you needed to use a landline phone or speak to them in person, a remark that garnered cheers and howls from the numerous audience members seated in the bleachers.
“Thinking back, I have no idea how we were able to survive,” he stated, to laughs.
The point he was trying to make was that graduates needed to face the future and be prepared to learn and adapt.
“But I think you already know that,” Bonner said. “My real advice is this … there is no substitute for hard work. Hard work and a good attitude, goes a long way in this world … it’s universal.”
Principal Gene Connolly described Salutatorian Calvin Maldonado as “a man of few words,” adding that the first draft of his speech was about 40-seconds long. But Maldonado led students in other ways, helping students with homework and working on summer science projects, Connolly said.
“Please, don’t be boring when you grow up,” Maldonado requested of his classmates. “Do exciting things to write home about … or do things you’d rather not write home about.”
Valedictorian Chrisinda Lynch remarked that the Harry Potter series had started when most of the students began schooling and now, the series was ending, right when they were graduating. She said the series of books paralleled life noting that no one ever knows if good ultimately triumphs over evil.
“I have taken away so many things from my time at Concord High and my time reading,” she said. “I have learned about loss, friendship, and loyalty, and that love is the greatest defense we have against hate.”
Ethan Currie announced the presentation of the class gift, a $5,000 donation to help construct an outdoor classroom, adding that the Class of 1959 had also made a donation. He hoped other classes would donate to the cause too. Andrea Pickering and Matthew Shulte led other musicians in a rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” while school officials like Superintendent Chris Rath and School Board President Kass Ardinger also also offered speeches. Senior Madelaine Shampy made the closing remarks.
According to the ceremony program, 411 students graduated Saturday, including 47 National Honor Society members and six foreign exchange students.