Soldier tells graduates, “Tupper Lake will always be your home”

TUPPER LAKE – Just because you come from a small town doesn’t mean you have to have small dreams – that was the message guest speaker and Tupper Lake Middle/High School 2004 alumna Bergan Flannigan delivered to graduates at Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

“I never realized how amazing this town was until I was injured,” said Flannigan, who was hurt by a bomb three years ago while serving in the Army in Afghanistan. “So if I could leave you with one thing to take forward in your lives, I would tell you to be proud of where you come from; Tupper Lake will always be your home.”

Speaking to the nearly 60 graduates, Flannigan concentrated on the places the Army, and her education at Norwich University in Vermont, have taken her. She spoke about overcoming obstacles, which for her included recovery after 20 surgeries and the loss of her leg from her injuries.

Quoting basketball legend Michael Jordan, Flannigan said, “If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.”

Valedictorian Emily Sexton encouraged her fellow graduates to take a moment to appreciate the people who helped them get to the place they are now.

“I personally would not be standing here without the guidance and constant support of my mother,” Sexton said. “You have taught me that hard work and perseverance are the key to achieving goals, and I hope to carry this advice with me throughout the rest of my life.”

While many students were sad to see their years together ending, Sexton asked them to embrace the past but also to look forward with the experiences that have shaped them.

“The years we spent here as students were temporary, and were meant to prepare us to succeed in whatever lies ahead. Hopefully, we are now ready to take on whatever life will bring, as our time that we must face the world on our own quickly approaches.”

Sexton asked her fellow graduates to pick themselves up when they fall and accept that failure is inevitable.

“It is how you react to and learn from your failure that will define who you are,” Sexton said.

Salutatorian Gretchen O’Leary went for a more lyrical approach, quoting music from the likes of Macklemore, Taylor Swift and even Bob Dylan.

“‘One thing, before I graduate, never let your fear decide your fate,'” she said, quoting a song from AWOLNATION. “Don’t let anything hold you back, because you are the one that decides your future.”

Class President Skylar Trivieri spoke of the ups and downs of living in a small town and going to a small school, but urged her classmates to appreciate the safety and closeness of a tight-knit class.

“For a lot of us, we have been together since kindergarten,” she said. “That’s 13 years of our lives spent together. And now here we are about to go our separate ways. Despite how far life takes us, we always have these memories to look back on and to remind us who we are and where we started.”

Contact Brittany Proulx at 891-2600 ext. 30 or