May 26, 2018
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Hermon High seniors’ video tries to cajole Ellen DeGeneres into speaking at graduation

By Jamison Cocklin, Special to the BDN

HERMON, Maine — Seniors at Hermon High School are going to great lengths these days  in an effort to make their graduation the talk of the town.

They were halfway there on Sunday, after posting a quirky video online in which they make a creative plea to Ellen DeGeneres, a celebrity comedian and host of the syndicated “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” to speak at their graduation in June.

The Hermon seniors, led by class president Chelsea Lear-Ward and fellow student Kaleb Potter,  posted a video on YouTube and a number of other social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, in the hope that DeGeneres will take notice and make the long journey to Maine. In it, Lear-Ward, Potter and others list the Top 10 reasons the celebrity should make an appearance at the school and speak to Hermon’s Class of 2011.

Clearly, the group’s aim was to match the spirit and fervor the comedian is known for. “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is entering its eighth season, according to the show’s website. It combines humor, celebrity interviews and plenty of dancing.

Perhaps the dancing part is what motivated Lear-Ward and Potter to make a video that features  the school’s principal, Brian Walsh, skillfully singing and assistant principal, Brent Slowikowski, showing off his best dance moves.

“As I campaigned to be class president,” quipped Lear-Ward as she addressed DeGeneres at the start of the video,  “I promised my class that our year would be as big as my hair.”

After Lear-Ward playfully pokes fun at her curly, full head of hair, students can be seen in the video dancing and speaking in high-pitched voices. Those featured in the video provide a host of reasons why DeGeneres should visit the school and Maine. Among them, the state’s abundance of whoopie pies, its lack of paparazzi and  the class president’s Tae-Bo skills.

The idea to make the video and ask one of daytime TV’s biggest stars to be Hermon High’s graduation speaker came during a class officers meeting, according to Lear-Ward. She at first jokingly suggested Oprah Winfrey or Patrick Dempsey, but upon reconsidering she thought DeGeneres would be a well-versed guest speaker.

“With everything she’s been through, I thought she’d be perfect,” Lear-Ward said.  “I mean, who doesn’t like Ellen?”

DeGeneres was born in Louisiana. Her parents divorced when she was 16. She went on to attend the University of Louisiana to pursue a degree in communications, but dropped out after one semester. From there, she worked odd jobs and struggled to meet the financial demands of daily life. She eventually became a successful comedian and Emmy-winning television star. Her story and propensity for helping others has earned her widespread popularity.

Lear-Ward said that she, Potter and English teacher Camden Carter managed to produce the video very quickly. It also features positive things at Hermon High that the group hopes will appeal to DeGeneres, such as school programs addressing violence in teen relationships and efforts under way there to better serve the community.

The group’s goal is to have DeGeneres become aware of the video by making it ubiquitous across various social networking sites. But Lear-Ward said Carter also has connections in New York City that could help the video find its way directly to DeGeneres.

If they establish such a connection, the Hermon seniors also plan on sending a 1,500-word letter to the celebrity in an attempt to further persuade her to attend their graduation. Lear-Ward added that the group would be elated just to get a response from the comedian.

Walsh said that in the short time since the video was posted online, the seniors have received a great deal of attention and warm wishes for their eye-catching production.

“They absolutely deserve this,” the principal said, laughing while attempting to compose himself during a telephone interview. “The video is very goofy, but I suppose this is one way you go about convincing someone to come and speak at your graduation.”

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