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Tuesday June 17, 2008 Edition
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The Vergennes Community Celebrates the Commencement Activities of the Class of 2008

Cookie Step poses proudly with her daughter Rachel, a VUHS graduate.
photo provided
Cookie Step poses proudly with her daughter Rachel, a VUHS graduate.
Valedictorian Katherine Jordan delivers her address to the 2000 in attendance.
photo by Cookie Step
Valedictorian Katherine Jordan delivers her address to the 2000 in attendance.
VUHS Seniors prepare to march.
photo by Cookie Step
VUHS Seniors prepare to march.

Tuesday June 17, 2008

By Cookie Steponaitis

   Sitting the rows of chairs in the VUHS gymnasium on three separate occasions this week, one could not help but be struck by the strong sense of celebration, community and commitment to youth that is present in the Addison Northwest Community. Glancing around the room at the generations of VUHS graduates assembled and seeing the pride in their faces for their children, their school, and their connection to the halls that they once called home is a reaffirmation to what makes VUHS a special community. There is a feeling of commitment that extends far beyond the moment that the diploma is placed in the hands and the tassel changes sides before for the last time, signaling a passing of the baton to the next generation of people who will call Vermont and America their home.

   The VUHS Class of 2008 commencement festivities were truly a celebration that began with a welcome by Co-Principal Ed Webbley and his challenge to the class to find in all life a child like wonder of what is possible and to get off on their own path of learning taking them beyond the walls of the school and into life. Salutatorian Tara Exter welcomed the assembled 1800-2000 people and reminded all of her classmates about the diversity of paths that are ahead for each of them. She personally thanked teachers Susan O'Daniel, Chris Wyckoff, Matt DeBlois and Meg Coffey and reflected on the depth of the connections made by so many in her class to so many in the school community. Valedictorian Katherine Jordan spoke of the “sugar” moments in life and how to recognize and make the best of each of them as they occur.

   The graduation address was provided by WPTZ Channel 5 Meteorologist Tom Messner, who was treated to a rousing applause by both the students and the assembled group of community members. Confessing his excitement and nervousness at giving his first ever commencement message, Tom spoke to his own experiences as a member of the graduating class of 1978 and the different career paths he took in radio and television before coming to meteorology. Reminding the graduates to have a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, he encouraged all of the teens to find their passion and commit to it with all of their capability.

   After Principal Webbley, Class President Kaitlyn Evarts, School Board Chair Kristin Bristow, and Superintendent Tom O'Brien presented the 119 graduates with their diplomas; senior Abby Benton provided a challenge to the class that turned up the volume and the anticipation of the final event to come. At shortly before 9:00 p.m., the VUHS Class of 2008 passed out of the gymnasium doors and into the annals of school history. As a faculty member, parent and past graduate of VUHS, I watched with pride as ANWSU does what has been its hallmark for over 50 years, it rejoiced as the next generation stepped off toward their own individual goals and futures. Sitting in a beautiful gym on a hot summer night, surrounded by the banners and names of past champions of every kind and strength, I was reminded of those who came before and those who sat in the stands awaiting their turn at their senior year. The heat was noticed, but not as much as the reason all were sitting there, to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2008 and to commit to every class that will follow them the promise that they are a part of a special place and community that cherishes them. As we all filed out, I was reminded of the words of American author and civic leader Wendell Berry when he wrote in 1964;

“We clasp the hands of those that go before us,
and the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other's arms
And the larger circle of lovers,
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures,
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it
Except in fragments.”

Congratulations to the VUHS Class of 2008.


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