BELLOWS FALLS >> Biological terms, characters from literature and complex geometric shapes were all things that the class valedictorian thought graduates would remember after leaving high school.
"But what else are we going to remember when looking back on our high school years?" Zachary Streeter asked on Thursday when Bellows Falls Union High School graduated a total of 68 students. "Perhaps even more important than identifying the metaphors, symbols and motifs employed throughout various works of literature will be the profound life lessons we learned about love, friendship and family. And when you think about that, suddenly, what you learned doesn't matter as much as who you learned it with."
Streeter recalled memories involving bus rides to and from sporting games, fishing trips and listening to the opening guitar riff from the classic Dires Straits song "Money For Nothing." He said he will remember having all the world's problems fade away even if it was only for a few hours spent with friends.
High school was "incredible" four years for Streeter, he said, looking forward to the summer when a few final memories would be made before he heads off to college.
"The academic challenge that we put to the students nowadays are real. They're significant and if you are here today getting a diploma, you've been up to the challenge," Principal Christopher Hodsden said. "Congratulations to the Class of 2016."
Arianna Parris, taking the podium for a commencement speech, said this was the most difficult year of her life. She compared life to a show.
"And now classmates, this is our closing act; it's curtain call, so prepare to take your places. It's time to bow and smile before our families," she said. "Always remember that there is a choice. There is a choice in what our next act holds, including the characters who may join us and those who may leave us, always remembering the place that has prepared us and taught us how to act. Everyone's show must end, but this is only just the beginning."
Preparing for the ceremony inside the school, Mason Muzzey told the Reformer he was really nervous.
"This is a really major moment in my life," he said. "I get to finally stop going to school but also start something new in my life where I can finally have a job and pretty much have a lot of independence."
Unsure of exactly what his next steps were, Muzzey said he was hopeful that he would eventually come across something that he will spend the rest of his life on.
Describing the journey through high school, salutatorian Elena Tansley said some may say the road was smooth and freshly paved.
"But let's get real, we live in Vermont and over half of us live up a twisty, dirt road that is constantly taken over by either potholes, ice or mud," she said, reminding her fellow graduates that snow would normally be on that list. "But this most common form of precipitation was virtually nonexistent this year until four weeks ago up north. Just like traveling the roads, we generally made it to where we were going despite the conditions. It is being able to conquer all of these obstacles that give us the satisfaction of success. And it is because of our resilient and rugged nature that we should all be proud of what we have accomplished."
Tansley encouraged her classmates to think of their future as a door opening to endless possibilities and adventures. She said the sky does not have to be the limit.
The people were what Mikahla Sudarsky said she would miss most after graduation. She's moving to Texas, where she will attend Lone Star College and major in secondary education with a focus on English.
"As we move forward along the various chapters of our lives, we would do best to tap into the whimsical wisdom of childhood, confronting failure and defeat as a reminder to live life lightly and less seriously," Nicole Murray told her class in a commencement speech. "For we're on our way to Neverland, soaking up every ray of sunshine, every ounce of joy, growing gracefully throughout this incredible journey."
But Murray hoped her class would refuse to grow up. Because, she said, "Who says we have to?"
Christian Terry recommended graduates follow their hearts and dreams.
"Rumor has it that high school is something we just have to get through. For those jousters, you may end up on the ground more than on the horse. This is one of the best times of our lives, making memories with the individuals who mean the most: our friends, our families, our teachers, our administrators and members of the community who come out every year to celebrate and congratulate us," Terry said in a commencement speech. "For those underclassmen in the audience, embrace every moment, challenge yourself, enjoy yourself and enroll in the courses that interest you. Remember, a positive attitude goes a long way."
Before the ceremony, Dakota Reynolds said he was feeling mixed emotions. He was happy but a little sad, he said.
"I know a lot of the people here. They're great people and it was great getting to know them," he said. "I guess time does move on and I know that what I learned here I'll be able to carry on in the future. I've learned a lot of great things and I hope that the freshmen, sophomores and juniors learn the same thing that I have; just keep going and never give up."
Planning to "relax a bit" after graduation, Reynolds said he would look to see what the future would bring and hoped he might find employment in the school's cafeteria.
Trinna Larsen touched on "Terrier Pride" in her commencement speech. Every time she would tell someone she went to BFUHS, she said she would feel proud of the school.
"For the opportunities it provides students to push ourselves to learn as much as we can in the forms of dual enrollment, AP (advanced placement) courses and honors classes. And for our technical programs, teaching young adults the skills they want and need to learn rather than facts that become irrelevant in their work place," Larsen said before applauding the school's staff and administration.
Bringing another moment of pride to Larsen, she said, was the recent school-wide decision to "officially support" students' use of the bathrooms they identify and feel comfortable with.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.