Photo Gallery | Brattleboro Union High School Graduation 2014
BRATTLEBORO -- Friday evening, under a perfect blue sky with wispy clouds, which hung over Natowich Field, the seniors in the Brattleboro Union High School Class of 2014 graduated.
Their names were called, one after the next, as they made their way to the stage and picked up their diplomas.
For all of them, class salutatorian Ethan Reichsman said earlier in the night, it was a monumental event, but he encouraged his classmates to continue educating themselves.
Reichsman said it was important for them to participate in their community, their state, nation and world.
"Get out there, be active, be involved, and most of all, be educated," he said to cheers and applause. "This is not a time for apathy, for sitting back and letting the world pass you by. If you want to see changes in the world, you have to make a change. For you to make a change, you have to be educated."
While recognizing that every one of his classmates who filled the seats in front of him had successfully met the requirements for obtaining a high school diploma, it was the life lessons they received in high school that will probably be more important as they move forward.
"The important things you learn in high school are not the capital of Malaysia or the quadratic formula," he said. "No, the important things are the ones you have learned slowly, so slowly you may not have noticed. You may have learned how to communicate, whether it be through writing, song, art, or music, you can put your voice out there for anyone who will listen. You may have learned to interact with your peers, a vital skill oft overlooked. You have learned to think critically, to observe the world around you and ask questions, like how what, where and why."
The weather was perfect for a commencement ceremony Friday and hundreds of family members and friends of the graduates filled the bleachers, set up folding chairs, and stood as the speeches were given.
BUHS Principal Steve Perrin acknowledged the death last year of James Evans, a member of the Class of 2014
"Jim's loss continues to resonate the BUHS community," Perrin said, before asking for a moment of silence.
Kevin Tao, the class valedictorian, also remembered Evans in his speech.
"It is worth noting that our class has already dealt with adversity before," Tao said. "As most of you recall, we lost a member of our class tragically last year. Even though Jim is not with us today, his presence is still felt and the times we shared with him remain vividly etched in our collective memory."
Tao admitted to working hard during his time at BUHS to achieve the highest grade point average among his classmates.
But he said in his four years at BUHS he did not meet a challenge he could not overcome until he was asked to write the speech he presented at commencement.
"I'm fine sitting down to study a biology textbook and can solve physics problems until my hands fall off," he said. "But I just stared at my computer screen for hours without an idea of where to begin. When I think about it. It's a bit ironic that my reward for excellence in high school resulted in the hardest assignment of my academic career."
Tao got some help from his classmates and teachers and he finished his speech, and he used the lessons he learned in completing the speech to encourage his classmates to also confront their challenges and overcome them.
"What is important is how we respond to the kind of adversity that school doesn't explicitly prepare us for," he said. "And who knows what or when that moment will be for each one of us. It could be in the next couple of years when you are in college or in the work force or in the military, or it could be 20, 30 or 40 years in the future. But I guarantee you that you'll have that moment."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.