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  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    Jose Galvez-Lovo waves to friends and family as members of the 2011 graduating class of Nashua High School South, Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS Katherine Weeks tries to hit the softball-size beach balls that fell from the rafters moments after the last Nashua High School South graduate was announced on June 18 at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


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    Michael Van Doorae makes his way onto the floor of the Verizon Wireless Arena, Saturday afternoon, during Nashua High School South's graduation.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    Kayla Kline twirls her hair while waiting in the wings of the Verizon Wireless Center, Saturday afternoon, for the start of Nashua High School South's graduation.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    A Nashua High School South male graduate walks through the wings of the Verizon Wireless Arena, Saturday afternoon, before the start of their graduation.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


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    Destiney Davis fixes Keith Farkas' mortarboard before the start of Nashua High School South's graduation, Saturday afternoon.
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    Sean Morrissey stands in line to enter the backdoor of the Verizon Wireless Arena, Saturday afternoon, before the start of Nashua High School South's graduation.
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    Madisson Harvey kisses her boyfriend, Evan Boylan while waiting in line to enter the Verizon Wireless Arena before the start of Nashua High School South's graduation.
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    Juliana Prophet and Meghan Chroney yell outside of the Verizon Wireless Arena before the start of the Nashua High School School South graduation, Saturday afternoon.
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    Dan Rizzo fixes Alex Johnson's mortarboard before the start of the Nashua High School South graduation in Manchester.
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    Amanda Walker watches a slideshow displayed overhead during Saturday's Nashua High School South graduation.
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    Sarah Wenrich hugs Emma Rourke moments after graduating from Nashua High School South, Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
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    Valedictorian Jonathan Warneke gives his address during Saturday afternoon's Nashua High School South graduation at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
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    Gahungu Simon gives a speech about the difference in education from his childhood in a refugee camp and his American education during Saturday afternoon's Nashua High School South graduation.
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    Nashua High School South graduates try to pass a beachball around during Saturday's ceremony moments before it's confiscated and deflated.
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    Lauren Weiner walks across the stage with her diploma as Catherine Wenrich gets a hug from Student Council President, Matt Spaziani, during Saturday afternoon's commencement ceremony at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
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    Patrick Bolton lifts his arms over his head in celebration after receiving his diploma during Saturday afternoon's Nashua High School South graduation at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
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    Graduates wait in the wings for Nashua High School South's graduation ceremony to begin at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, Saturday afternoon.
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    Tiffany Pelletier waves to friends and family in the stands during Nashua High School South's graduation, Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
Sunday, June 19, 2011

South grads told to dream big

MANCHESTER – Still wearing his purple gown, Juan Brea shared a congratulatory kiss with his girlfriend after having just been given his high school diploma.

They were standing outside the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, where Nashua High School South has just completed its graduation ceremony. Brea was one of 494 students to officially bring their high school careers to a close Saturday.

Brea and girlfriend Emma Bates are leaving Thursday for a two-week trip to the Dominican Republic, Brea’s native country. But Brea, like many of his classmates, will have little time to bask in the glow of his accomplishment; the rest of his life is about to start.

“Once I get back, it’s time to get ready for college,” said Brea, who is hoping to take classes at Nashua Community College.

During the ceremony, several speakers shared words of encouragement about the future. Valedictorian Jonathan Warneke told classmates to dream big and reminded them that while high school may be over, the learning process doesn’t stop.

“We will forever be students: students of life,” said Warneke, who will be studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

Senior class officers presented gifts to individuals representing groups that helped them get to graduation, including parents, teachers, support staff, volunteers and the senior class advisors.

Gahungu Simon told students about his journey to America, after having been born in the Republic of the Congo and being forced to live in a refugee camp. He said his mother worked tirelessly to make sure he and his five siblings were able to get a quality education.

Simon is one of several refugee students to have entered the Nashua School District in the past few years. He praised the quality of education he’s received, describing South as a “palace.”

“Coming to Nashua, I’ve been able to learn from some of the best teachers,” he said.

Simon was given the ACE Award by the Exchange Club. ACE stands for Accepting the Challenge of Excellence. It is given to students who have had to overcome significant adversity to get to graduation.

Senior Class President Matt Spaziani said while some may see graduation as the end of an era, he sees it differently.

“I like to see this as the beginning,” he said. “We choose what happens next.”

From the rafters, attendees could see the various designs on the graduates’ placards. The Boston Bruins recent Stanley Cup championship prompted several to go with the familiar black-and-gold logo.

The jubilation of the ceremony was halted to remember Kevin Morse, a student who died last year. Morse would have graduated Saturday. His parents were presented with a plaque and his diploma.

Before conferring diplomas, Principal Jennifer Seusing recognized some of the achievements of students. She had 11 seniors who will be joining the military after graduation stand, which prompted a standing ovation from the crowd. There were also two students who had perfect attendance during their four years in high school.

The freshly minted graduates congregated outside of the arena, hugging family and friends and posing for photos in their caps and gowns.

Longtime friends Mandy Ashline and Mackenzie Baney said they had mixed emotions about moving on from high school.

“It’s exciting and sad at the same time,” Ashline said.

Ashline and Baney both will be attending the University of New Hampshire in the fall. Although they won’t be roommates, they plan on spending plenty of time together. Ashline will be studying chemistry, while Baney will focus on hospitality management.

Ryan Gendron will be studying business management at UMass-Lowell in the fall. He’ll also be playing for the school’s baseball team. High school hasn’t always been easy, he said.

“It’s been stressful at times, but it’s been fun,” Gendron said.

As for the long-term future, Gendron said his goal is to own his own business, ideally a baseball development facility.

NHS South Top 10 students by class rank:

Valedictorian Jonathan Warneke, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Salutatorian Kendra Phillis, New York University

3. Alden Leclair, Georgetown University

4. Kinjal Shah, Tufts University

5. John Ste. Marie

6. William Gosse IV, Brown University

7. Nathan Tenney, Northeastern University

8. Carolyn Regula, Boston University

9. John Potter, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

10. Mathew Leeds, University of Wisconsin

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or mbrindley@nashuatelegraph.com.