Concord Monitor – Graduating from Kearsarge: ‘You feel like you are more family than just classmates’

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A line of five-year-old future graduates of Kearsarge Regional High School slowly trotted down the blue carpet in the middle of the school’s football field. Instead of caps and jackets, the dozen or so students wore oversized white T-shirts with the words “KRHS Class of 2036” on them.

Each year at graduation, the Kearsarge Regional School District kindergarten contingent joins the senior members of the high school choir in a performance of “God Bless America.” Because so many students have lived in the same neighborhood their entire lives, many Saturday graduates can look at the performers in kindergarten and remember being in their shoes.

Chloe Ogmundson is one of those students. Her mother, Sara Colson, has a photo of her daughter walking next to a senior when she was in kindergarten. She had Ogmundson retake the photo, this time wearing blue robes.

As Ogmundson and her classmates gathered in the gym and parents filled the folding chairs outside, Colson reflected on her daughter’s big day.

“She is looking forward to the next steps,” Colson said. In the fall, Ogmundson will begin college at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI, where she will study to become a pastry chef.

Culinary education is one of many routes Kearsarge’s 114 graduates will take after graduation. The Cougars have a wide range of interests, something many of them attribute to the school’s encouraging environment.

“High school was about finding our voice,” said Candace Wescom, a student speaker and this year’s recipient of the Alex Gissler Scholarship. “There is no universally correct way to live a life that is solely yours. Every person has different goals, different concepts of what happiness and success look like, and a different vision of what it looks like to truly live.”

Nearly every graduate had the same answer to the question, “What makes Kearsarge special?” It was always ‘the community’.

“You feel like you’re more like family than just classmates,” Alex Tockman, who is attending Merrimack College for hospitality management.

His friend Charlie Reeve, vice president of the graduating class, agreed. He will attend Syracuse University to study sports management, motivated by his experience with high school sports.

“The sports programs here – basketball and golf, for me – have really helped me grow,” Reeve said.

For class president Tori Montagna, that same sense of community has defined her high school experience. She served as head of student government for the past three years and before that was vice president.

“I’m so proud to be part of this group of people,” she said, who will attend the University of New Hampshire in the fall, where she plans to study business.

Montagna repeatedly referred to Kearsarge’s “Carnival” in her remarks to the class. She sees it as a sign of the bond and spirit of her class: Carnival is a day of athletic and artistic competitions between the classes, almost always dominated by the upper class. But the 2024 group usurped the seniors when they were juniors, claiming another win this year.

“I think maybe it’s a good thing that we’re graduating,” Montagna said. “Maybe try a different number sometime.”

Before principal Charles Langille Jr. would officially declare the class graduated, he gave his students one final task: take a Kearsarge yellow rose, find someone you love, and present the flower as a gift. For ten minutes, graduates ran around under the whisper of the rain, handing out flowers to each other, to parents, to friends. Then they all sat down together, one last time.

A confetti cannon roared and shot blue and yellow into the air. The class of 2024 threw their hats up. Men in kilts blew bagpipes and the class walked out into the world as one.