BRATTLEBORO -- Inspiration is found in the most unexpected places, said Valedictorian Katharine Elizabeth Cohen, during the graduation ceremony of the Brattleboro Union High School Class of 2010.
Inspiration doesn’t always come from a hero, a president or a celebrity, she said, but can also come from a person, a mentor or group of people we observe or with whom we interact.
And inspiration isn’t always readily apparent, said Cohen.
"We might not know the effect ... until after they’ve influenced us," she said.
For Cohen, her pivotal moment of inspiration was an Outward Bound adventure.
"I was surrounded by older students," she said, who demonstrated independence and showed kindness to people, even those "not particularly liked."
"I was inspired to be a better person," said Cohen, who admitted that when she first entered high school, she wasn’t particularly self-aware.
Cohen was speaking on behalf of her 240 fellow graduates to a crowd of more than 1,000 people who were crowded onto Natowich Field under a beautiful blue sky on Friday evening.
She said she found inspiration not only from her Outward Bound experience, but also from family, friends and teachers.
Cohen singled out band director Stephen Rice for his "instrumental" inspiration.
"He said never create ugliness in a sea of beauty," she said.
Anyone can have a lasting positive influence on someone else, said Cohen, or can ruin somebody’s day or self esteem.
Quoting Mark Twain, Cohen said small people belittle your ambitions, "But the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can become great."
She also told her fellow graduates to branch out and try new things.
"Learn something different," said Cohen.
If you’re going to school for political science, take a class in math, she said, or get a job outside of your chosen field.
Don’t limit yourself, said Cohen, by deciding today what to do with the rest of your life.
"Do what you love and continue to be inspired," she said.
Class speaker Eliza Shea Rosen reminded her classmates of recent achievements, such as winning the state’s ultimate Frisbee championship and the band marching down Pennsylvania Avenue during President Barack Obama’s inauguration parade.
She also reminded them that not everything about high school was celebratory.
There were failed tests, fashion emergencies and other "bumps in the road."
But all of those moments, said Rosen, make up their "Facebook photo albums."
Keep on taking those awkward photos with the blurry movement and the bad light, said Rosen.
"Those are the pictures that really define us," she said.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
Class of 2010
Rachel Elizabeth Alberico, Amanda Lee Ames, Travis Matthew Bacon, Stefanie Michelle Bailey, Corey Lynn Baker, Alexander Martin Baribeau, Sean R. Bartkiewicz, Elisabeth Scarlett Bemak, Casey Eleanor Bemis, Ankit Kumar Bhanot, Bjorn Eloy Blakeson, Joshua D. Blaushild, Samuel Lester Blaushild, Hannah Rose Borochoff-Porte, Jacob Arvine Boyd, Adam Peter Boyle, Johnathan Daniel Bratton, Annabel J. Brennan, Andrew Lawrence Bristol, Emily Dixon Brown, Adrianne Lynn Browne, Willow Keona Buckley, Kimberly Morgan Butts, Kelsey Isana Carew, Joseph Tobin Carmichael, Nicole Carpenter, Matthew Kevin Carter, Patrick William Castaldo, Jacquelyn Ann Cawley, Shannon Kaylin Chalmers, Sarah Elizabeth Charlonne, Ketevan Chkhetiani, Sarah Susan Clark, Brendan Alexander Cleary, Dillon Thomas Clough, Katharine Elizabeth Cohen, Crystal Belle Collins, Christopher John Conforti, Madeline Herbert Conley, Alex Tod Cornellier, Alison Kara Cornellier, Mariah Noelle Cote’-Basinger and Garrett James Covey.
Also, Sherrie Ann. Cretelle-Smith, Katherine Page Danaher, Albert Jonathan Davis, Robert Lynn Davis, Stephanie Ann Dean, Jack Henry DelPriore, Jamie K. Denyou, Helen Bowles Detra, Lana Joyce Dever, Russell Bradford DiNicola-Fawley, Samuel A. Draper, Chelsea Ryan Dubois, Caitlin Shea Durkin, Michael Dayton Earle, Elizabeth Ann Edwards, Zachary Gilbert Emond, John P. Ferencek, Amy Lynn Forbes, Dale Loren Forrister, Kimberly Faith Marie Franklin, Kyle Anthony Franklin, Theresa Marie Franklin, Travis Daniel Franklin, Addison Kathleen Freed, Davin James Freeman, Christopher David Gagne, Chelsea Ann Garland, Benjamin Michael Gartenstein, Amanda Joy Gelter, Alex James Gero, Shane M. Gerry, Cory Robert Gilbert, Joshua Todd Given, Katherine Marie Given, Colleen Keegan Goldberg, Elizabeth Theresa Gonyea, Levi Carl Goodnow, Lucas Cady Gossard, William Gray Grandy, Nicholas Whelihan Grasso, Chelsey Leigh Gray, Melissa Pearl Green, Sarah Tayntor Green, Hope Dahlia Creager Griffis, Stephanie Ann Grover, Kelsey Davis Guarino, Solomon Reed Gunzburg, Lindsay Marie Haas, Hunter F. Haddad, Emily Katherine Hale, Kaylynn E. M. Hamel, Travis Raymond Haskins, Sarah Lynn Helander, Kayla Marie Hensel, Jeffrey S. Hetzel, Colin R. Hinckley, Phoebe Hodson, Sadie A. Holliday, Allison E. Hopewell, Travis Houle-Clarke, Ryan Alexander Houston, Chien-Luke Hsu, Matthew Jon Hudon, Kori Nichole Huffman, William Dodge Inman, Tiequa May Isaacsen, Kalle Lundqvist Jahn, Brianna Leigh James, Jordan Elizabeth Jangrow, Benjamin Wendell Jerome-Lee, Xinjy Ji, Tiffany Lynn Jobin, Jesse Thomas Johns, Christopher David Johnson, Bridget M. Jones, Victor D. Jones, Jesse S. Kail, Justin Cale Kenney, Katie Lynn Kennison, Shelby Katherine King, Daphne Laurel Kinney-Landis, Nathan Joseph Clayton Knapp, Shawn R. Koolick, Naomi Rose Kramer, Theodore Charles Kramer, Jr., Emily Elizabeth Tyler LaFantano, Tara Anne LaFleche, Blanca Estela Larios, Danielle Briana Latulippe, Mark James LaValley, Kareana Margueritte Leonard, Felicia Eleanor Longe, Corinne Alise McFadden, Sara Laurel McKinney, Andrew D. Mario, Evan Nicholas Martin, Peter Anthony Martin, Samantha Martinek, Eric Lee Mayer, Carol A. Maynard, Daniela Mehling, Cassidy Doris Menard, Robert Austin Meyer, Jordan Patrick Mialkowski, Meghan Nancy Miner, Hanna Bergman Miyake, Brianna Marie Moore.
Also, Samantha Rose Newell, Desiréé Lynne Nichols, Jack Lyndon Nichols, Jr., Christopher William Nolan, Mariah Lynn Norcia, Elizabeth Anne Olson, Matteo Paba, Bernard D. Parent, Shad R. Payne-Meyer, Jorgen Pedersen, Paul A. Penrod, Joseph A. Perkins, Henry Graeson Storm Petty, Leif Pfaff-Powers, Cristina Jo-Del Piergentili, Nicholas Pillsbury, Anna Jean Pirog, Jane D. Potter, Aaron H. Providence, Caleb Bevan Quinn, Saleh Ahmad Rashed, Orion Z. Redfield, Devin P. Rhodes, Garold Anstan Rhodes, Katelyn M. Richardson, Jennifer Lee Richotte, Mary Kirtley Righi, Daniel T. Rivers, Meghan Haynes Robb, Eliza Shea Rosen, Jordan Roy, Tony Alan Roy, Russell James Ryan, Kacie Rhiannon St. Onge, Krystal Renee Scherlin, Breton Irion Schwarzenbach, Irina Sergis, Brett J. Sewing, Miles Sherman Shaw, Bridget Mariah Shea-Gander, Alexander J. Shippee, Anna Elizabeth Short, Adam Anthony Smith, Tavish Alan Snow, Cody Ryan Spaulding, Jeffrey A. Stafursky, Gregory Daniel Stoughton, Ashley Marie Strange, Zachary Alan Stromberg, Taylor M. Struthers, Hannah Lindsey Svec, Elisa Hulnick Tavella, Andrew John Tetreault-Cramer, Beau Thomas Tetreault-Cramer, Hannah Marie Therrien, Nicole Frances Thomas, Spencer Troy Thurber, Chandler Scott Turner, Brianna Enette Turpin, Ian Andrew Tuttle, Jacob Levi Ungerleider, Victoria-Rose Unwin, Michael Velazquez, Eben David Viens, Brittany Danielle VonFeldt, Breanna Waite, Rebecca Lynn Walker, Ryan Patrick Walker, Dakota Clement Walsh, Bethany Frances Saunders Warnock, Rachael Wilmot Warriner, Zachary Paul Weatherhead, Beau Charles Webster, Katie Brennan Webster, David Weeks, Sarah Michele Wells, Jared Nathaniel Wheeler, Kyle Edmond Whitworth, Steven Charles Wilkinson, Kristina Ellen Willette, Amanda Rae Williams, Benjamin Frank Wilson, Jessica Marie Winchester, Larissa Rae Winchester, Samuel Ryan Wisell, Ryan Scott Woods, Daniel Stuart Wright, Jordan Mariah Wyckoff, Sara Kathryn Yager, Didem Yavuzyigit, Ella Louise Young, Meghan Cheyenne Zinn.