Seniors reflect on the impact of COVID, upcoming graduation, future plans

As they look forward to graduation in just a few weeks – a milestone that was not assured for all of them just months ago – four John Stark students in April shared with school board members about where they’ve been and where they are headed for their future careers.

Sophie Hebert came to John Stark from Manchester as a transfer student in her sophomore year and arrived with only enough credits to be a freshman.

“When I was little, I was a good student and did well in school. But then I got involved with the wrong group of people in Manchester. I made mistakes, skipped school, and failed the second semester of my freshman year, ”Sophie said.

In an effort to give Sophie a fresh start, her mom moved the family to Weare in 2019.

“It wasn’t easy. The kids were different, but as I got to know them and saw that they always attended classes, I realized that they valued their education. It opened my eyes and I got my head going in the right direction, ”she said.

Just as Sophie was making friends and getting settled at John Stark, COVID hit. The challenges of COVID and distance learning left Sophie being less successful than she’d hoped. By the end of her sophomore year, she’d managed only to accumulate just 2.5 credits.

“When I saw my report card that June, I was devastated. I was so disappointed that I’d let myself down again, ”she said.

Sophie turned her devastation and disappointment into a commitment to be successful in her junior year and to push herself to graduate with her class, the Class of 2022. She developed a plan, and with a full schedule, she also enrolled in online recovery coursework, took advantage of John Stark classroom support, and Flex Block. Her plan began to work. She earned 8.5 credits toward graduation in her junior year.

Her goal for this, her senior year? Earn all the credits necessary to graduate and with grades she is proud of. Sophie earned four credits in the first semester and is working on six more credits now. Graduation is on her horizon. She has applied to NHTI for the fall in their dual admission program with an intent to graduate from Keene State.

“I’ve learned to never give up. Everyone is capable of a bright future, ”Sophie said.

Nate Nichols always had a plan. He knew he wanted to be a police officer or firefighter. What he couldn’t figure out was how high school was going to help him meet that goal and admits to not making school a priority. That all changed, however, when in his sophomore year, he attended a College and Career Fair at school.

“At that fair, I was able to explore pathways and career fields suitable for me. I became passionate and loved school because I could see how it would help me meet my career goal, ”he said.

In his junior year, Nate was accepted into the Junior Emergency Services Program through the Concord Regional Technical Center, an option he could access as a John Stark student. During his senior year, Nate enrolled in a night course through Granite State EMS for his EMS license, all while completing the necessary classes at John Stark to graduate. On July 18, Nate will head to basic training with the Air Force where he will spend three years with the Security Forces for police officers and three years in Fire Protection for firefighting.

Gracie Bolduc and Jayden Lamothe also shared their John Stark experiences. Gracie hopes to work in the field of forensics within the federal government. However, her path was a bit serendipitous. She’d originally signed up to take marine biology but ended up being placed in forensics. “That was a game changer. I fell in love with forensics. ”

“Even with the challenges of the pandemic, I’ve been able to be successful and I appreciate all the academic opportunities that were available to me at John Stark. Studying at this rigorous level made me a competitive candidate at the colleges I applied to, ”Gracie said.

She is currently enrolled in four Advanced Placement classes. She plans to continue her passion for playing field hockey while studying biology and biotechnology at Endicott College.

Jayden admits to falling behind and losing motivation once COVID hit in his sophomore year and his grades were at an all time low. That changed for Jayden in his junior year when he learned about a career as a lineman – a career that met his desire to help people and would provide him with a challenging career, with the risks, job security, and benefits he was looking for.

In the summer before his senior year, Jayden enrolled in VLACs classes to meet some of his missing graduation requirements.

“This year, I’m taking a full load and I have grades I am proud of,” he said. Jayden has been accepted into the Southeast Lineman Training Center in Georgia in the fall. He is also currently working with the Northeastern Joint Apprenticeship Program, who will work with when he returns from Georgia.

“These four kids have had very different journeys that intersected when they found their passion and committed to doing whatever is necessary to make their dreams come true. They are a true representation of the Class of 2022, ”said John Stark School Counselor Karen Merrill-Antle.


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