Let the Celebrations Begin for Alvirne High School Class of 2006

by Sue LaRoche

On a gorgeous Saturday morning, the Verizon Center in Manchester was the scene for the 2006 Alvirne High School graduation ceremony.  A steamy morning had all who attended grateful to be in the climate-controlled, and somewhat chilly indoor venue.  An enthusiastic crowd filled the arena in order to see their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, cousins, or friends make that jubilant walk to the stage to gather the coveted high school diploma.  Chairman of the Hudson School Committee, David Alukonis, Superintendent of Schools, Randy Bell, and Principal Bryan Lane handed out the diplomas, as well as 326 handshakes and/or embraces.


Katelyn Haggerty gets a hug from Principal Bryan Lane after receiving her diploma.

It was a well-ordered ceremony with emcee Principal Lane keeping the events of the morning on schedule.  The program opened with the Alvirne High School colorguard presenting the flag, while the “B-Naturals” made up mostly of graduating seniors and directed by Candace Friborg, who is retiring after a stellar career at Alvirne, sang the National Anthem.  Lane then introduced Senior Class President Katherine Gleason who reminisced about their lives and this final week leading up to graduation.  She began her speech with “Wow!” and went on to describe the adventures that this class had been through such as their first bike ride, first time they tied their shoes and their first friends, calling these events the cornerstones in their lives.  She hoped that “we have left a footprint in each others’ hearts and memories” and that “the adventure is not over - what lies ahead is greater.  Remember where you came from and where your cornerstone lies.”

Salutatorian Dana Lyn Jutras then addressed the crowd comparing the 326 graduates’ lives to a soundtrack with each event being a different melody.  She credited the teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, and parents for being the conductors.  “They unify the group, adding structure to the music and helping to develop technique.”  She named family, friends, and classmates as the back-up singers “providing support and helping to keep the music going.”  Appropriately enough, after Jutras’ speech, the B-Naturals sang Con Te Partiro thoroughly impressing the attentive crowd.


Blowing a kiss to his fans is Brandon Mansur as the graduates enter the Verizon Center.

Valedictorian Matthew James Dorion followed with a thoughtful speech recounting this class’s past and how much the world has changed when “once upon a time there were no iPods and no cell phones … the Patriots never won a Super Bowl, the Red Sox were cursed, and SPAM was a food.  At the same time that this new technology was introduced, so were we.  Live a life that you can be proud of.”  He reminded his classmates that as they grow, quantity will be less important than quality and nobility, respect and integrity are the most important qualities they can strive for.  “As we remember our past, celebrate our present and confront our future, let us strive not only for greatness but for goodness.” 

Following Dorion’s speech three awards were handed out:

  • Wilbur H. “Webb” Palmer Award ($1,500) given by the trustees to a student in the vocational program who has given of himself or herself to the school and community:  Jessica Spaulding, who will be attending the University of New Hampshire Thompson School to study horticulture, was the recipient.
  • G. Leonard Nase Award ($1,500) to a student who has given of himself or herself to the community of Alvirne High School:  Lacey Marques who will attend the University of New Hampshire to study Medical Laboratory Sciences.
  • Chester J. Steckevicz Award, given to a graduating senior exhibiting the characteristics of Mr. Steckevicz (ethics, dependability, and tireless work ethic):  Terin Guessferd.


Guidance Director William Hughen shakes hands with Patrick Weaver as the graduates leave the Verizon Center.

The final speech of the morning was given by Principal Bryan Lane.  He paid tribute to the retiring teachers and following some technical difficulties, he managed to play a “low tech” boom box with a 68-second piece of music by Huey Lewis.  Complete with finger snapping, crowd swaying and foot tapping, the song encouraged “hum a little soul, make life your goal and surely something will come to you.”  He reminded them that when they were sophomores he asked three questions:  1.  What do you want to do when you leave Alvirne?  2.  What will it take to get there?  3.  What are you willing to sacrifice to make that happen?  “Your parents, family, teachers, coaches, band instructors, choral directors have all helped to develop this soul that you are.  Without a doubt because of who you are and what you have shown me, something good will happen.”  Lane encouraged the student body to “make life your goal.”


Ashley Low, Ashley Luszey, and Michelle Luszey await the ceremonies outside the Verizon Center Saturday morning.

A loud cheer erupted as the final graduate’s name was read and the maroon graduation caps went flying.  Exactly one hour and 51 minutes after being led into the arena, the class marshals, Amanda Teneriello, Elizabeth Stewart, Derek Li, and Michelle Pinsonneault, directed the jubilant graduates out of the arena and into the arms of family and friends.  Let the celebrations begin and congratulations to the Alvirne High School Class of 2006.


Caps fly at the end of the graduation.


Shawnasey Madison looks for family during the presentation of color by Alvirne High School Jr. ROTC.


Spelling out Success for 98 Litchfield Graduates

by Doug Robinson

The skies above Campbell High School were Crayola® blue with large white cotton ball clouds gradually beginning to fill in the blue spaces as hundreds of spectators gathered to celebrate the graduation ceremonies at Campbell High School in Litchfield.  Bagpipes could be heard playing in the distance, signifying that the 98 seniors, who were about to embark on a new phase of life, had entered the graduation arena.


Alexander Hill has a unique way to express his excitement.

Every person in attendance stood, directed their respectful attention to the soon-to-be graduates, and listened, as the high school band began playing the traditional song of Pomp and Circumstance.  Parents lined the promenade route, grandparents jockeyed for that special angle for that special picture, while sisters, brothers, and family members cheered, waved their hands, and shouted the names of those they knew and loved, as they walked by.  As the graduates stood shoulder to shoulder, they marched down the 50-yard line of Cougar Stadium and headed to their assigned seats on the football field.  The ladies were robed in crimson red with corresponding caps, while the men were attired in black gowns, black caps, and matching tie. 

Senior Class Secretary, Danielle Bowen, having welcomed all in attendance, then directed the seniors to present to “that special person who has meant the most to you” the red carnation flower with which they had carried with them while marching into Cougar Stadium.  As the seniors presented their flowers to that special person, hugs were exchanged, words of thanks could be heard through the quiet whispers, and tears of joy were shared on both the part of the student and on the part of their special friend.  “I love you, thank you, and (just) thanks” could be heard in through the whispers, as the flowers were passed from each student to each special friend.


From left, Elizabeth Ballok, Brandon Borrero, Katy Innes, Tyler Delano, Kristina Tiernan, Andrew Pincence

Class Essayist, Chris Lepine, spoke of memories, lasting bonds, and friendships.  He sparked much joy and laughter with his classmates as he went down memory lane, revisiting many highlights of the past 12 years that he and his class has shared together.  With respect he stated, “The greatest asset that Campbell High School has is its teachers.  They treated us with respect and as equals.”  Lepine quoted rock star and singer Bon Jovi, “Believe in love.  Believe in magic.  Hell, believe in Santa Claus.  Believe in others.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in your dreams.  If you don't, who will?”   

Salutatorian, Christi Cartwright, stressed the importance of knowing who is important in your life.  While she referred to her parents, she also thanked the teachers of Campbell High School as they “celebrated personal success and helped the students take their dreams to the highest, special places where your heart has ever known.”

In the spirit of tradition, graduating senior Caitlin Kelly presented to the Junior Class two class gifts.  The first gift was a message board for the school’s front lobby.  The second gift, an endangered cougar, was rescued and adopted by the senior class and dubbed “Mojave.”

Both Dennis Perreault and Kathleen Reilly, Campbell High School teachers, shared the responsibility of the commencement address for the graduating class of 2006. 

Perreault’s address focused on “appetite for adventure, witnessing exuberance, nurturing responsibility, and applying the lessons learned.  “You must act and seek solutions, use your knowledge that is based on fact or truth.”  Perreault reminded the graduating seniors that during their years in school, “the Internet was created, cell phones became common place, they have been able to witness the fury of Mother Nature, and they participated in 911.  This is a special evening and we can say that this is the end of your compulsory education … you could argue this as this diploma means you know everything, everything that society says you should know.  Beyond this field, is a world, and you are needed to improve it and make it safe for all humans.”


Silly string – a tradition at Campbell High School

Kathleen Reilly spoke of moving on, putting others first, and believing in miracles, as she offered the students an anagram to emphasize the values of lessons learned while they attended Campbell High School:

C:  Count your blessings … focus on what you have, not what you do not have

A:  Always do your share … your dishes, trash, shopping

M:  Move on … learn the past.  Toss it into the ocean

P:  Put others first

B:  Believe in miracles big and small

E:  Enjoy time with fiends and family … talk, laugh, cherish

L:  Laugh every day … no matter what … share jokes; don’t be afraid of looking silly

L:  Lavish yourself in memories … things that make you smile

Valedictorian Taylor Brown also stressed the “outstanding teachers” at Campbell High.  “Guidance kept us going in the right direction and the custodians cleaned up our messes.  Everyone at Campbell High has dedication, commitment, and has touched us and given us an ideal to shoot for.  Stand up for what matters, and most of all, don’t forget to pause in life.  Insert a comma.”

For many of the family members and spectators in attendance, this graduation had specific and special meaning.  Ken Munsell, father of senior Alyssa Munsell, stated “I am very proud to see her here today.  Alyssa was diagnosed a year ago with a brain tumor and had lost her sight.  She has made it through all that, and she is here today for graduation.”  Dennis Brewer, grandfather to senior Shawn Donnelly, stated “This is really special for me and his grandmother because forty years ago, I graduated from here.  My daughter graduated 20 years ago as well.”  Mike Falzone, father of Katrina Falzone, stated that “his daughter was his second child to graduate from Campbell.”  With excitement he continued, “I have ordered the new hot tub to go into her room, and her room will never be the same again.”

And when the instruction was given, “Class of 2006, move your tassels,” the cotton ball clouds had blanketed the Crayola blue skies in full.  The entire graduating class erupted, cheered, and opened up cans of silly string, and gleefully began to spray the contents of their cans upon their fellow classmates.  This was a celebration of accomplishment as well as a celebration of their last time together, 98 classmates, sitting shoulder to shoulder, on the 50-yard line of their home away from for four years, Cougar Stadium.  Beach balls bounced in the air and an inflatable doll could be seen flip flopping as it was struck into the air over and over again by the graduating celebrants.  Hundreds clapped their hands, whistles could be heard, and thousands of flashes of light dotted the spectator rows, just like fireflies on a hot June night, creating memories for a lifetime for families to share.


The presentation of a flower to a parent continues.  Lisa Dube presents a carnation to her mother, Carol.


Nottingham West’s Celia Polak:  Awarded Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year 2006

by Maureen Gillum

Every year, local Wal-Mart managers review dozens of exemplary teacher nominations submitted throughout the year by students and parents.  Just one individual per store is selected for their prestigious ‘Teacher of the Year Award.’  Wal-Mart’s 2006 recipient, a veteran teacher of Hudson for 35 years, Celia Polak, couldn’t be more worthy or surprised.


Nottingham West Elementary School’s Celia Polak, Wal-Mart’s Teacher of the Year 2006, with several of her students and fans from Room 301.

Fully armed with prizes, a plaque and American flags for all, Hudson Wal-Mart’s Personnel Manager, Shirley Cassidy, and Training Coordinator, Nancy Krawczyk, helped prep Nottingham West’s fourth graders to deliver the unexpected news to their teacher, last week.  “It’s great fun to see the kids so excited,” exclaimed Shirley.  NWES Principal, Peter Durso, happily declared, “We’re so very pleased and proud of Miss Polak!”

Walking unannounced into Room 301, Celia Polak was absolutely stunned by the rambunctious entourage.  She quietly put on her blue Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year 2006 polo shirt and graciously accepted her plaque from her flag waving students.

However, when Miss Polak opened her very generous Wal-Mart gift certificate and personal gift card, she uncharacteristically shouted, “Holy Mackerel!  This money can sure buy a lot of supplies for our classroom!”  Is it any wonder that the selfless Teacher of the Year immediately thought to give her reward to her class?

According to the many who love her, that’s just like Celia.  “She is totally dedicated to her students,” shares long-time NWES colleague, Bev Stanley, “she has a fabulous sense of humor!”  “Not only is Celia a wonderful teacher, but she’s a great contributor to our NWES community,” Durso exuberantly adds, “as Advisor for our Wildcat Village school store and Chair of our Sunshine Committee.” 

Miss Polak also has the unique ability to “treat every one of her students as if they are the most special person in the world,” according to Bev.  “Miss Polak is the very best teacher I’ve ever had,” earnestly agrees Brittany Leveille, “she always makes our projects and learning so much fun!”  “She’s really nice,” states ardent fan, Ryan Hudson, “Everything she does is about us and our school.”

Congratulations Miss Polak on your well-deserved Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year 2006 award … and Happy Birthday, too! 

Celia also joins the impressive ranks of two NWES’ Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year recipients -- Amy Blackwell (2005) and Jan Spry (2003).  “It’s not all that surprising,” concludes Mr. Durso, “Nottingham West is truly a school of excellence!”


Tale as Old as Time Presented by Dr. H. O. Smith School Students

Last week at Dr. H. O. Smith School, the fourth grade students performed Beauty and the Beast.  The students have been rehearsing, learning lines, and making the set for the last three months under the direction of Joe Hurley and Pat Laws fourth grade teachers.  Following the production the staff and parent volunteers showed appreciation for the students’ with a cast party for all the hard work and excellent efforts.  All the students can be very proud and consider themselves “stars!”


From left:  RJ Younghusband; Erik Daniels; Brandon Martin; Matt O’Brien as the Cronies; Danielle Lefebvre as Belle; Adam Charron as Gaston; and Brandon Rule as Lefou.


Stop & Shop’s A+ Bonus Bucks Benefits Local Schools

by Maureen Gillum

Hudson’s Stop & Shop Store Manager, Ron Smith, has been quite busy going back to school lately.  In the last few weeks, he’s made personal visits to about a half dozen schools in Hudson, Litchfield, and Pelham to deliver more than $10,000 in checks.


Ron Smith (left) presents Stop & Shop’s A+ BonusBucks 2005 - 2006 check to Nottingham West Principal Peter Durso (middle) and Superintendent Randy Bell (right) with some help from several Nottingham West Elementary School’s fourth graders.  

“We were thrilled to launch Stop & Shop’s A+ Bonus Bucks program in New Hampshire this year and we’re looking to build much greater awareness and participation for next year,” explained Mr. Smith happily at Hudson Memorial School last week.  “After all, the program is easy to do and comes at no cost to our customers or schools,” congenially details Smith, “its really free money for local schools to do anything they wish.”  Area schools who gained the most from the retail grocer’s program this year include:

Alvirne High School (Hudson)                                                              $3,953

Nottingham West Elementary School (Hudson)                                 $1,987

Presentation of Mary Academy (Hudson)                                            $1,212

Hudson Memorial School (Hudson)                                                     $1,209

Griffin Memorial School (Litchfield)                                                       $   778

St. Patrick’s School (Pelham)                                                               $   582

Litchfield Middle School (Litchfield)                                                      $   467

Local school administrators have been delighted with Stop & Shop’s generous support, especially in an era of tight budgets and rising costs.  “We greatly thank Stop & Shop for their community partnership,” shared Hudson Memorial’s Principal, Sue Nadeau, who earmarked the June 8 donation to help fund “HMS student activities.”  Nottingham West’s Principal, Peter Durso, also applauded Stop and Shop’s “investment in education and community” along with a representative class of fourth graders (Miss Finnegan) in NWES’ courtyard on June 13.  “We’re very appreciative of Stop & Shop’s generosity and the support of our parent participants,” sincerely stated Randy Bell, SAU 81 Superintendent, at the Nottingham West check ceremony.  Bell heart fully thanked Mr. Smith and the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company and assured all “the money will be put to good use.”

Given this is a new program, the A+ Bonus Bucks checks were often a pleasant and unexpected year-end gift to schools.  “This came as a very nice surprise when Mr. Smith called me last week,” happily reported Bo Schlichter, Griffin Memorial School’s Principal in Litchfield.  He detailed that Griffin was thankfully supported “as some of our parents and friends signed up with Stop & Shop on their own.”  Griffin Memorial’s Student Council was also proudly on hand to accept the generous check from Stop & Shop on June 8.  “The money was most welcome and appreciated,” Bo earnestly concluded, “we hope to put it toward some much needed playground supplies for next year.” 

Essentially, all public, private, and parochial schools grades K - 12 are eligible to participate in the new A+ Bonus Bucks program.  It simply requires two things every year:  1) a school enrolls in the program and 2) a customer with a Stop & Shop card registers and designates up to three schools to benefit from their A+ BonusBucks that automatically accrue each month.  The key is that both the school and customer must respectively enroll and designate each year.

In its first year, the program ran from October 2, 2005 through April 1, 2006.  Details and roll-out plans for the upcoming 2006 - 2007 school year should be available in mid August.

Complete program details for both schools and customers are available at Stop & Shop’s customer service desks or via www.stopandshop.com/aplus.  Currently, the New Hampshire Stop & Shop stores that support the program include Hudson, Bedford, Peterborough, and two Manchester stores.  In addition, nine stores in New Jersey also participate.

“In all, $50,000 has been raised to directly support schools throughout New Hampshire with Stop & Shop’s 2005 - 2006 A+ Bonus Bucks program,” concludes Ron Smith, “it’s our way to remind everyone we’re here and will continue our commitment to education and supporting our community.”

The Hudson-Litchfield News commends the community spirit of Stop & Shop and encourages area residents to thank them with their patronage and sign up for the A+ Bonus Bucks program to help support local schools.


Pelham Mourns a Hero

by Lynne Ober


Adorned with her husband’s medals, Katrina Gionet, center, clutches the flag that had draped Dan Gionet’s casket. Standing to her left is Dan’s sister, Alycia.


Following the memorial service at St. Patrick’s Church, Honor Guard members transport Pelham’s fallen hero, Dan Gionet, to his final resting place in Gibson Cemetery, Pelham.

Long before he signed up for his second tour of duty with the Army, Dan Gionet was recognized in Pelham as a role model.  He was the kind of young man that everyone wants their own children to be like – he was likable; he put others first; he was an acknowledged team player; and he proudly served his country.

After his first tour of duty ended in Afghanistan, he was eligible to get out of the Army, but decided to sign for another tour so that he could train as a medic and help others. 

He was on a patrol with his unit in Iraq when an IED [improvised explosive device] exploded and destroyed the tank he was riding in.  Gionet suffered life-ending injuries, but ignored them so that he could tend the wounded men in his unit.  He was so worried about his lieutenant that when a fellow soldier offered to treat Gionet’s wounds, Gionet told him to look after the lieutenant.

During the memorial service Reverend Robert Guillemette of St. Patricks’ Church in Pelham recalled Gionet’s words, “Don’t deal with me.  Go help the lieutenant.  He’s in greater danger than me.”

Guillemette said, “The story ends with that.  His life ended.  There is no greater love than when you lay down your life for another.”


In memory of Dan Gionet, the Pelham Fire Department gave a sky-high treatment to the flag, which was erected from opposing ladder trucks on Common Street.

And all of Pelham agreed.  Friday morning June 19 started with teachers briefing students on the life of Gionet and how each of them would honor the fallen hero.  At 9:45 students from all three Pelham schools began quietly filing out of their schools and lining Marsh Road.  Parents arrived to join the students.  Flags were handed out.

Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler joined the high school students.  “It was so quiet that you thought you were standing alone on the street, but you were surrounded by students and adults.”

Flags in hand, students, staff, parents, and others who joined them silently waited for the funeral procession to pass and when it did, it slowly drove between two long lines of Pelham students and residents.

At the church Gionet was accorded the honors of a fallen hero.  His comrades respectfully carried his flag draped coffin into St. Patrick’s Church. 

After the singing of Amazing Grace, Guillemette said, “Amazing is God’s grace.  God has journeyed with Dan to a wonderful place – heaven.”

Pelham Selectman Ed Gleason read two passages from the scriptures.  The first one was familiar to all, “…A time to be born, A time to die …”  The second was from the Letter of Paul to the Romans, “None of us lives for ourselves …”

Gionet was one of those people who touched others in a positive way – no matter where he was.  “He was just an awesome kid,” said School Board member Bruce Couture.

Governor John Lynch referred to Gionet as a hero from New Hampshire who will never be forgotten.

During a lengthy, heartfelt eulogy, former Pelham High School Baseball Coach Joe Connors recounted an ongoing exchange that he and Gionet typically had.  Connors said that Gionet had not been a starter on the baseball team because he was the back-up to one of the school’s all-time best catchers.  And yet, he was a consummate team player, giving 100 percent at every practice.  At the end of every game, Gionet would tell the coach, “If I was on their team I would have started today.”  Connors would then nod in agreement.  Gionet may have been disappointed about not playing more, but, according to Connors, he never complained.


Governor John Lynch consoles Dan’s sister, Alycia, outside St. Patrick’s Church.

Calling him a “selfless soldier” many times throughout the eulogy, Connors emphasized that Gionet exemplified this designation in every facet of his life.  He gave his all whether he was on the baseball field, in the classroom or at home with family and friends.  This selflessness continued when he joined the military.

No surprise then that in his senior year at Pelham High School, Gionet earned the school’s Athlete of the Year award because he represented the best of Pelham on and off the field, Connors remembered. This award was decided on collaboratively by all the school’s coaches.

Gionet’s positive attitude continued after high school.  The “selfless soldier” never lost his caring ways or his firm sense of what was important in life.  Always an encouraging influence, he made lifelong friends wherever he went.

Alycia Gionet, Dan’s younger sister, struggled to say a few words about her brother during a brief eulogy following Coach Conners’.  Of course, the typical brother-and-sister banter and annoying exchanges were commonplace between the two of them growing up, she said.  But she recalled crying long and hard on the day Dan told her he had joined the Army.  He left her with poignant words: “Pledge allegiance to the flag, but remember to pledge allegiance to yourself too.”  He encouraged her to follow her dreams as he was doing.  She left the altar in tears and was immediately surrounded by her family who hugged and comforted her.  Alycia was scheduled to graduate from Pelham High School that night.

Sergeant Jeff Hurell, who met Gionet at Fort Hood, traveled to Pelham for the funeral to honor his friend.  When the casket left the church, Hurell followed it and then stood at attention while it was loaded into the hearse for Gionet’s last ride.  Tears streamed down Hurell’s face as he watched his friend start his final journey.

Katrina Gionet, wife of Dan Gionet, was comforted by family and friends.  She had his purple heart and bronze medal pinned to the shoulder of her dress. 

Although Dan Gionet is gone, memories of him will live on.  And, most likely, those thoughts of Dan Gionet will be happy ones of a young man with a smile on his face.  Prompting loved ones at the service to close their eyes and picture Dan, Coach Conners then asked the question, “He’s smiling, isn’t he?”  To everyone there, the answer was obvious.

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