By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It took more than 782 diplomas to graduate Pinkerton Academy's Class of 2010 yesterday. It also required parking spaces for about 5,000 people, maybe half a dozen police officers directing traffic and a large collection of inflatable beach balls to punctuate every speech and award presentation with jubilation.
As family and friends made their way into the Pinkerton football stadium for the 10:30 a.m. ceremony, seniors lined up two-by-two, waiting for the familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” to officially launch the academy's192nd commencement.
Salutatorian Lexi Hamsmith was introduced by Beverly Lannon, Dean of Faculty, who described a young woman who had overcome much adversity and worked hard to achieve academic and personal excellence. Hamsmith moved 15 times in her life before landing at Pinkerton as a sophomore, an experience that taught her how to interact with others with a heightened sense of compassion and understanding.
In her prepared remarks, Hamsmith spoke about how as students their individual lives have been like puzzles constructed of pieces contributed by parents, teachers and peers. Graduation marks the beginning of self-definition, said Hamsmith.
“We finally have the chance to break through the restrictions others have placed on us. Today is the day that we are no longer enclosed by the pieces others have given us and we are granted freedom in the discovery of ourselves,” Hamsmith said.
Class Valedictorian Kelly Glynn touched on the push and pull seniors feel, between academics and social life, as they approach the high school finish line, and the balancing act that will continue, throughout college and the rest of their lives.
“Farewell to the Class of 2010. May each of you find that balance which gives you the most happiness,” Glynn said.
Leading up to diploma time, several students were recognized for their achievements – in total, the senior class received $7.9 million in awards and scholarships, the largest single amount going to Jake Hawkins, who received a four-year Department of the Air Force Scholarship worth $414,000, and will attend the U.S. Air Force Academy's officer training program in Colorado.
Many seniors passed the time between arriving at school and entering the stadium by seeking shade as the mercury climbed toward 90. Ben Proulx found a grassy patch of turf where he listened to music on his iPods.
“Right now? I'm listening to Jack Johnson, 'Upside Down,” said Proulx, who will play football and study criminal justice as a college freshman at Sacred Heart University.
Daniel Rainieri Jr. just wanted to make sure he did something memorable on his last official day of school, so he mounted his mortarboard onto a viking helmet.
“It's a good landmark so we can tell our parents how to find us in the crowd,” said Samantha Robichaud, walking in front of Rainieri. She said she's still contemplating her immediate future, but hopes to travel the world.
“It feels like just the other day we were in second grade, and now here we are,” said Robichaud. “It's been the best four years of my life.”