HEBRON — Sixty students graduated from Hebron Academy Saturday, in a room filled with their family, friends, and teachers. The senior class boasted students from 11 different countries, including Finland, India and China, most with family there to congratulate them on their milestone.

Tears were shed, jokes were made and students were proclaimed adults at this year’s Hebron Academy graduation ceremony.

The fondness these students had for their school was palpable that afternoon, as speech after speech included words of thanks and love toward their alma mater.

“I have found friendship, love, guidance and freedom here at Hebron, which naturally makes it rather hard to leave behind” but (it’s important) not to let that fear keep you from chasing your passions,” Darby Michiko Astrid Tuttle expressed in her salutation.

John J. King, who is retiring this year, gave his last commencement speech as head of the school, praising the students as the best part of Hebron Academy.

“Be the beginning of something — change a life,” he urged the students. “I think you’ve already done that — you’ve changed mine.”

Once each student walked across the stage to receive their diploma, King and his wife were given commencement diplomas of their own. King said he preferred to think of his retirement more like a graduation.

Colin Nathaniel McKay, who gave the valediction, ended commencement with an inspiring message, claiming he and his classmates are now ready to explore and conquer the world, to thrive in a world filled with madness.

In Hebron Academy tradition, the graduates rang the Victory Bell to officially end the ceremony and their time as students.

Class President Riley Summer Hemmings summed up the poignancy of the moment in her moving speech: 

“We are moving on to accomplish those dreams we’ve had in us forever and to realize the new goals we set for ourselves each day,” Hemmings said. “As we graduate today, we are earning the responsibility to become independent and to make our own decisions about life. We have begun to choose our own paths.

“… For all of us, this day isn’t really the beginning or end of anything at all,” she said. “Today is one of the first days on which we can truly and finally say, ‘we did it.’ For us, the Class of 2016, today is the day we simply move on.”

In addition to diplomas, many students won awards for their outstanding performance in a subject or extracurricular activity. Among those presented were the all-faculty chosen awards, as follows:

• The Leyden Award, for a student who has grown and overcome obstacles and who shows concern for others: Owen Daniel Richmond

• The Edward Tate Green Key Award, to honor a student for their qualities of courtesy and compassion: Shin Hye Hwang

• The Ernest Sherman Award, for a student who exhibits dedication to Hebron and concern for the community: Riley Summer Hemmings

• The Charles and Amy Dwyer Memorial Award, presented to an outstanding scholar-athlete: Nicolas Legare

• The Milton G. Wheeler Good Fellowship Award, for the student with highest standards of citizenship and integrity: Shubham Sanajy Bodke

• The Phemister Award, for a student who has shown outstanding leadership and responsibility: Sophie Webster Gibson

• The Risman Honor Award, for the student with academic accomplishment, athletic endeavor and outstanding good character: Colin Nathaniel McKay

• The Hebron Academy Cup, for the student who exemplifies the finest spirit of scholastic effort and strong school spirit: Ryan Paul Boucher

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