WESTMINSTER >> "You don't just help our children develop as good students here at Compass; you help them become good people," remarked a parent during the Open Forum part of Compass School's graduation ceremony.
Words cannot capture the soulful spirit of the afternoon, as over 110 teachers, graduates, family, and friends all had a part in celebrating the graduates.
The love and admiration for each senior was evident in the remarks from teachers, family members, friends and classmates. Equally moving was witnessing the confidence of the graduates as they each had the opportunity to speak to the audience, showing poise, insight, and pride in the many ways they had already made an impact in school and the larger world.
Although many are saying this is the most extraordinary time in our nation's politics, our nation has faced similar times of doom saying, fear and cynicism. And although it can feel sometimes like nothing changes, in fact, we have just lived through perhaps the most rapid social change in our history in the fight for marriage equality.
Changes in my own lifetime inclued cleaner air and water to land conservation to these students having an African-American president for the majority of their lives.
While inspiring ambitious action is often a graduation theme, I set out more reasonable goals. Aim small and realize the scale where you can really make a difference. It is in smaller settings, like those in which you've been raised in Vermont and here at Compass — in smaller organizations and communities, where we can usually be most true to our values and often have the greatest impact and effectiveness.
Even more importantly,, what really makes a difference in the world is how these students act in their daily livies. They can, every day, use what they have learned at Compass to make the world a better place.
A similar theme was echoed by Senior Class Advisor Eric Rhomberg, who directed the graduates to formulate a personal mission. In line with the Compass School mission statement.
Rhomberg told his advisees, "You are headed out into the world, which is a complex, sometimes cruel, but fundamentally beautiful place. The world is in need of wise, creative, open-hearted people like you. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to follow your dreams, live a life of love and happiness, and have a positive effect on the world."
When it came time for the graduates to speak, one after another moved the audience to laughter and tears as they expressed their appreciation for their high school experience. Peter Simpson thanked the teachers: "Rather than telling me how to act and how to be in the world, the teachers at Compass have tried their best to show the students how to be good people by being good people themselves."
Karl White articulated his tremendous development as a person and as a learner: " I have become confident, caring, knowledgeable, and sure of who I am and what I am doing."
Celia Wilson, the final student speaker, reflected on how grateful she was for all who have kept her in school and helped her develop the confidence she was taking with her as she sets off for college next September.
The ceremony concluded with the awarding of diplomas by Board President Dean Dorman. The artistic handmade diplomas, created by Compass students, represent the distinctive qualities of each recipient. The graduates first see these personalized diplomas when they come on stage — a truly special moment that recognizes their personal accomplishments and the unique gifts they take with them from their high school experience.
Rick Gordon is the director of Compass School.