CCHS graduates line up under a brilliant sun during commencement exercises. Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

Concord-Carlisle High School graduation 2024: Finding your ‘why’

By Luke McCrory — Correspondent

“Officially dismissed!” 

On those words from Concord-Carlisle High School Co-Principal Katie Stahl, the Class of 2024 tossed their mortarboards into the air, concluding a Memorial Field ceremony commemorating the achievements of more than 300 students. 

Words of encouragement, empowerment, advice, and especially congratulations filled the stadium throughout the morning — and there were a few tears, too.

CCHS Class President Faith Clark sheds a tear as she talks about her parents from the podium. Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

Class President Faith Clark was quick to applaud her classmates’ accomplishments, both tangible and intangible, and commend their collective effort to push through difficulties. 

“Being a teenager is one of the most difficult times in your life, and I’m happy to be surrounded by such a supportive class,” she said in her address. 

Clark then acknowledged her parents, thanking them “for everything” in a moment of emotion that visibly affected the crowd. Taking a step back from the podium, she tearfully laughed, “I said I wouldn’t cry!” 

She finished her remarks on a hopeful note. “We have the power to change the world and shape our future,” Clark said before leaving the stage to a round of applause.

Find your ‘why’

Superintendent Dr. Laurie Hunter, the first to address the outgoing class, reminisced about interactions with students that reminded her of her “why” — the reasons she fights through tough times, and embraces good ones, as an educator. 

She encouraged the students to find their own “why” and hold it close. “Find the things that ground you, satisfy you, and bring you joy,” Hunter said. 

Graduates during a faculty address from Head Librarian and instructor Robin Cicchetti. Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

CC Head Librarian Robin Cicchetti, in a keynote address, articulated her own “why.” 

She warned that establishing a standard of research and literacy skills is far from a certainty in the future of education. 

“I fear that school libraries and the information and literacy curriculums will be inaccessible to many students. That personalized attention that supports independent reading [is] being lost,” she said, lamenting book bans and attacks on the “freedom to read.” 

Cicchetti said it’s vital that every student can “see themselves and their experiences reflected on the books on the shelves.” 

To that end, she commended students for their advocacy in the face of book challenges, specifically naming senior Alessandra Nugent for her work on the state level.

Advocacy and access

Nugent recently testified at the Massachusetts State House to improve access to gender-neutral bathrooms in the new Concord Middle School. 

As a member of CC Spectrum Club and the statewide Safe Schools Program, Nugent has found her “why” advocating for inclusion and equality for LGBTQ students. 

Citing Bay State protections that make it relatively secure from national legislative trends, she told The Concord Bridge she feels “very glad” she’s going to college in Massachusetts. Nugent will attend Harvard.

Student Senate Moderator Alexandra Saunders addresses the CCHS commencement crowd.
Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

In her remarks, Student Senate Moderator Alexandra “Ali” Saunders harkened back to her elementary school days of picking daisies and trying to keep them alive. Upon finding a new flower, she grasped an important lesson. 

“I didn’t try to conceal it or keep it perfect. I just admired it,” she said.

“I had allowed myself to love that flower, even though I knew it wouldn’t stay forever.” 

Connecting back to the students in front of her, she offered a parting message. 

“Care and love the people you are sitting with right now,” she said, “even though we all eventually say goodbye, because what a gift it is that we got to know one another in the first place.”

Headed to Tulane in the fall, Saunders looks to implement that wisdom and find her own “why,” saying she is “going in with a fresh perspective, trying to show everyone love and compassion.”