Central High School Class of 2024: A celebration of milestones and memories

Central grads: Throw your caps in the air like you just don’t care – or more like you just finished four years of high school! Photo/Stacy Harrison

MANCHESTER, NH – The city’s largest and most diverse graduating class went out in style Saturday, a celebration of milestones and memories for the Class of 2024.

Central Class President Michael Blair recalled how things began for this class, and reminded his fellow classmates of the many reasons to celebrate.

“On our first day of high school, we met each other in a strange way – on Google Meetings and Zoom calls. Despite the challenge of remote learning, we quickly forged friendships and bonded as a class. When we returned to school, we hit the ground running. We embraced our Central Pride. We cheered in the stands of Gill Stadium. We laughed with each other in the hallways. And, we have done great work in our classrooms and in our community,” Michael said. “We have eagerly learned, grown, and pushed ourselves every day. And, we did all of this by choice.”

It wouldn’t be a graduation ceremony without a poetic reminder that life is what you make of it, and Michael did not disappoint.

“In his poem, ‘On Time,’ Khalil Gibran, the famed Lebanese writer and poet, said, ‘Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.’ Looking forward, we are armed now with knowledge from the choices of our yesterdays and we have the distinct ability to realize the dreams of our tomorrows. Graduates, as we go forth from this arena tonight, choose excellence. Choose to be a force for good in our world. Choose to do the hard thing, because it is the right thing. As we realize the dreams of our tomorrows – choose to do, to be, more,” he said.

Michael also offered up his own quotable wisdom.

“Often, it is said that ‘the sky is the limit.’ I disagree. The sky is not the limit, but rather the threshold. The sky is merely the point where we begin, from which we must strive ever upward. We have done extraordinary things while at Central. But let us not rest satisfied. Let us recognize that extraordinary is the starting point and we will be the ones to set an even higher limit. We are the generation to discover new things, think in new ways, and move our world forward. But, we must choose to do so,” he said.

Photos by Stacy Harrison

More photos available for viewing and purchase here.

Class vice president and valedictorian Akshay Manchanda, pondered the idea of utopia aloud from the podium for his classmates.

“At age 6, I thought of retired life despite having never worked a day in my life. At age 9, I pictured the day I would get my pilot’s license, giving me the freedom to travel the world. At age 12, I imagined relaxing on a beach, with a pina colada in my hand and crystal-clear water in every direction. At age 15, I imagined an illustrious career as a chemical engineer, solving the chemical problems of the world. This dream quickly faded after a series of mishaps in chemistry class,” he said.

“And finally, two weeks away from my eighteenth birthday, I’ve realized that my utopia is ever-present. Over the past four years, there have been many sleepless nights, many downed black co ees, I think it’s an acquired taste, and many times I’ve wanted to give up. However, the desire to find and reach my utopia kept me going, and I hope that same desire guides each of you as you pursue endeavors beyond high school, whether you attend college or trade school, enlist in the military, or join the workforce. During high school, I learned that a utopia is not just an idea, but can be tangible as well.”

Former Central Principal John Rist served as keynote speaker, at ease with the task which he infused with his signature good humor and wisdom. He noted that this would be his big finale after 50 years as an educator in the city of Manchester, and capped off his remarks with a “Dos and Don’t” list he created for the graduates, based on his years of experience.

Former Central Principal John Rist said this moment “is the finale of my 50 years in public education. This is certainly a great way to end my career. I am very grateful for the opportunity.” Photo/Stacy Harrison

“After lunch, my kids at Webster run to the playground for recess with smiles on their faces,” Rist said, setting up his list.

  • DO – every day just like those kids headed to recess.  Be excited about the possibilities of each and every day.
  • DON’T – be like those kids when its time come in from recess …. With frons on their faces.
  • DO – be the best person you can in every interaction with the human race.  Its just more fun to be nice.
  • DON’T – ever think you are somehow better than anybody else.  We’re all here together and need to show kindness and love to our fellow man.
  • DO  – know that no one is better than you.  For some reason, some people think they are better than the rest of us.  Simply stated, they’re losers.
  • DON’T  – be lazy in what you do.  If something is  worth doing, it is worth doing well.   Give it your best effort.
  • DO – be aware of what is going on in this country and around the world.  Voting  is your civic duty.  Vote.  If you don’t vote then you lose your ability to complain.
  • DON’T   –   ever lose sight of what is right and what is wrong.  We all know right from wrong.
  • DO – the right thing every time.
  • DO – respect people of age.  Yup, old people, like me, We have a lifetime of experience and we do know stuff!
  • DON’T  – be impressed by the clothes I wear, the car I drive, the street I live on or who I hang out with.  Judge me for who I am.
  • DO – have opinions or topics you know about and the people who are close to you.  What you think is important and share your opinions appropriately and when asked.
  • DON’T  – waste your youth.  Time is going to fly by.  Use your youth now to do the things you won’t be able to do 30 years from now.
  • DO  – love your own body.  It’s a fantastic machine and its all yours.  There’s not another one like on the planet.  Treat it well and it will do the same for you.  You gotta make it last!
  • DON’T  – ever care about what others say about your body.   What’s your is yours.
  • DO – get outside, lay down on the grass and watch the clouds go by, feel the sun on your face, feel  the wind shaking the leaves on the trees, embrace the cold and put up with the heat,  The earth is amazing  make yourself part of it.
  • DON’T – be a racist or ever judge anyone by the color of their skin or who they might pray to.
  • DO –  live your life with passion.   BE PASSINONATE. Be passionate about your family. Be passionate about your friends. Be passionate about your lover.
  • DON’T  – judge a person by who they love.  We all need someone to love.   Seek love, find love but don’t judge love.
  • DO  –  listen to your mother.  She is still the smartest person you know.  Seek her wisdom and advise in how you live your life.  And get off the phone when  she is talking to you.