Class President Chapin Reis speaks at the Bellows Falls Union High School graduation ceremony on Thursday evening. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)
Class President Chapin Reis speaks at the Bellows Falls Union High School graduation ceremony on Thursday evening. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

WESTMINSTER -- Fifty-three young people joined the ranks of Bellows Falls Union High School alumni on Thursday.

With friends and family members seated in the stands of the Holland Gymnasium to stay dry from the rain, the dozens of graduates listened to five esteemed classmates tout their hard work and accomplishments before officially wrapping up their high school careers.

Graduations are typically a bittersweet occasion, with an excitement for what is ahead blended with the realization that a huge life chapter has ended. Class President Chapin Reis said it seemed like it was just yesterday when she and most of her classmates were starting a 12-year academic journey together.

The Bellows Falls Union High School Chorus led by Mary Westbrook performs "Bridge Over Troubled Water" at the high school’s graduation
The Bellows Falls Union High School Chorus led by Mary Westbrook performs "Bridge Over Troubled Water" at the high school's graduation ceremony on Thursday evening. (Photo by Nick Grubinger)
Still, she compared the ride to a fairy tale complete with a cast of supporting characters made up of teachers, administrators, school board members and coaches. She quoted fairy tale characters Peter Pan and Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, to find words of inspiration.

"As our favorite character in green tights once mentioned, ‘Never say good-bye because good-bye means going away and going away means forgetting,'" she said, referring to Peter Pan. "Reminiscing on the memories we have created within this building, good ole' Bellows Falls, I don't want to forget. Throughout the past four years, we have been encouraged to step outside our comfort zone, and truly discover ourselves as individuals."

Reis then borrowed a quote from Quasimodo.

"'Life is not a spectator sport. If watching is all you're going to do, then you're going to watch your life go by without you," she recited. "My advice to you is to chase each individual dream, each passion. Over time we will learn, sometimes the right path is not the easiest one, but I challenge each and every one of you to be brave, for the ‘flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.'"

Class Secretary Paige Moody took the podium to acknowledge to some of the educators for the role they played in her academic success and then thanked her friends.

"Sometimes, I may dare even say we learned the most from our peers. We laughed together every time someone had a ridiculous outburst, and whined together when we were forced to do things we didn't want to like be in the same room together," she said to some laughter from the audience. "Just kidding.

"We have taught each other about love and pain that will no doubt guide us as we part and journey through out unknown territory," she added. "I'll miss all of you, and I'm sure even though we all say we're excited to leave, we all have that sour slice inside of us that isn't quite ready to let go.

Moody then challenged the entire Class of 2014 to get out into the world and show everyone what they were taught at BFUHS.

Valedictorian Jonah Bolotin chose to cap off the student speeches in a unique way. Instead of using an inspirational or profound quote, he expressed his gratitude for what he said got him and his classmates to graduation day.

"Google, Wikipedia, SparkNotes and, of course, the old ‘I e-mailed it to myself, and it just isn't there ‘" he said.

He also wanted to let his classmates know many of the challenges they faced in high school will recur throughout their lives.

"We will face situations where we may not want to do something, but it will be our job to bring the rainbow to them, for these are the experiences that have unintended takeaways, just like high school did," he said.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. Follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.