Mount Anthony Union seniors say goodbye

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BENNINGTON — Almost 200 members of the Mount Anthony Union High School senior class stood together for the last time as high school students on Friday.

The school's 51st commencement ceremony took place on the school's Spinelli Field. Throughout the evening, the speeches centered around the challenges faced and overcome by this group of students.

The ceremony was accompanied by the sound of the MAUHS band, under the direction of Marjorie Rooen, and the MAUHS choir, under the direction of Lynn Sweet. Before the ceremony, they played for the gathered parents the music of the Beatles, traditional marches, and more. When the graduates entered, the band played the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance," by Edward Elgar. The processional was led by Principal Glenda Cresto and Superintendent Jim Culkeen, followed by the boards of both Mount Anthony Union and the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center, the schools' faculty, and finally the graduates themselves, who entered in pairs.

Cresto gave the opening remarks. "On this field tonight are some pretty remarkable people," she said, "They are all scholars. Many are artists, actors, singers, and musicians. Some are athletes, and many of our athletes are heading the championship games next week." At that, a cheer went up from many of the parents in attendance.

Andre Wright, the president of the class, spoke next. "Nobody knows what the future holds for sure, because it's our job to innovate it," he told his classmates in what was a relatively good speech, considering he admitted to writing it the day before. "I urge you, ask yourselves whose lives you have changed, and whose lives you are a part of today... and if you don't remember my words, remember the words of Ferris Bueller. 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.'"

The first faculty speaker was Judi Estes, business teacher and head of the technology department, who took the students on a verbal journey that began in 2004, when this class entered kindergarten and first started trading snacks in the lunch room and showing off their Polly Pockets and Legos at show and tell, and took them through their entire educational careers to this point. "Today, they are sitting near this friends, many from that first day of kindergarten back in 2004," she said, "May they live happily ever after."

"Don't let yourself stagnate," she implored the students, "Always try to improve your physical and emotional being, otherwise you'll fall behind. Focus on what's important to you." She told the audience to remember the names they will hear during the ceremony, as she was sure we would be hearing many of them again, as they distinguish themselves and bring honor to the school.

The second member of the faculty to give a speech was Amy Thivierge, head of the English department. "I stand before you humbled by the idea that you think I have ideas worth listening to," she told her colleagues, before addressing the graduates, telling various people throughout history who had the opportunity to change the world by being one of the few who was willing to speak up. "One voice, their voice, speaking up, gave others the courage to follow," she said, "One voice began, others joined in, and the world changed."

"I challenge you today to use your voice," she said, "I ask you to believe that using your voice to speak up for what is right and true is worth it."

After a musical interlude featuring Thivierge and the entire graduating class singing Barry Manilow's "One Voice," with more and more voices gradually joining in, the class salutatorian, Erika McCarthy, gave her speech. "I will not be singing tonight," she joked, "Sorry to disappoint you."

"The people here today, in the audience, have played a huge role in shaping us, and we can never forget that," she said, "As we all go out into the world, it's important to realize we'll be affecting a whole lot more people." She encouraged all of her classmates to think about who they are and the effect they have on others.

After a performance of the school's alma mater, "The Impossible Dream," from the 1965 musical, "Man of La Mancha," Thea Pappas, the class valedictorian, gave a speech. "On graduation day, we celebrate the end of a pivotal period in all of our lives," she said, "On this day of conclusions, it seems ironic that I'm doing something for the very first time, delivering a speech to hundreds of faces, with twice as many eyes."

"I wish the best of luck to everyone, no matter what they may be," she concluded.

Degrees were presented by members of the Mount Anthony Union School Board and the board of the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center. Afterward, the class was presented together for the final time by Culkeen.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB


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