Graduating BUHS seniors told to take risks, don't be afraid of failure

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Photo Gallery | 2016 Brattleboro Union High School Graduation

BRATTLEBORO — Nearly 200 Brattleboro Union High School students received their diplomas on Friday, and one girl sat front and center during the entire commencement, all smiles.

Emma Davis graduated with honors and also received the Harold Wagner Memorial Award, which is given to someone "who through perseverance has developed confidence and efficiency in any field whatsoever and is deserving because of untiring effort and work in overcoming hardships." Davis has Down Syndrome and proved herself to be just as deserving of her diploma as her fellow classmates.

"I love this award more than anything, and I just can't believe it and I want to thank my friend Carrie and my family," Davis told the Reformer after graduation.

Davis' family could barely believe it either and her parents, Robin and Andy Davis, said they had no idea she was going to be the recipient.

"When the speaker announced the award was for someone who has overcome hardship, I thought well, there's a possibility there, and then when her name was called it just hit me and I started crying," said Andy. "She really has worked so hard for someone with a profound disability. She is cheerful, hardworking and she's looking forward to doing more things in her life."

Several class speakers had a word or two about achieving goals in the future despite difficult situations.

"We will be apprehensive about taking chances, fearing that failure will follow as a result," said class speaker Brian McCarthy. "However, it's important to take risks and remain calm when we make mistakes."

McCarthy went on to say that success involves experiencing failure, stepping outside of comfort zones and picking oneself up after they stumble. While he had some words of wisdom of his own, he also pulled quotes from the Tim Burton movie, "9," to inspire his fellow classmates.

McCarthy noted the moment at the end of the film where the protagonists defeat the villains and then one of the characters asks, "now what?" And the other replies that the world is what they make of it. McCarthy made the parallel from this movie to possible thoughts of graduating seniors.

"I'm sure there are many of us asking the very same question of, 'now that high school is over, what happens next,'" McCarthy said referencing the movie, "9."

Then McCarthy said his advice to his graduating class was the same as stated in the movie and further, that as long as they believe in themselves and stay determined, there is nothing that will prevent them from becoming successful.

In a similar respect, class valedictorian Claire Thomas said in her speech that adulthood is not about being "omniscient" or "uber-competenet," but rather figuring out who you want to be and striving for that mission.

"But who do you want to be?" Thomas said in her speech. "This, I think, is the most difficult question of all, and it's something you may not have learned how to answer."

Thomas assured her classmates that even for the student that believes they're sure of what they want to do from here on out, statistically they will likely change their mind to some degree. She reassured her classmates they will be OK despite these changes. In addition, like in McCarthy's speech, Thomas noted that failure is nearly inevitable and that is OK too.

"Oh, and remember that math test you failed in 10th grade but couldn't retake? Well guess what: life is more flexible than a high school curriculum," said Thomas. "You'll fail — that's another thing I can promise you — but in the real world, failure can be temporary."

She went on to encourage them to define their success and choose their values, career and relationships wisely.

"It won't be easy — that's a third promise, but nothing important ever is," Thomas said.

As some students made their way to their diplomas they took selfies, waited to walk hand-in-hand with their best friend or even made a point to "dab," a dance in which the dancer simultaneously drops the head while raising an arm and the elbow.

Under direction of BUHS Band Director Steve Rice, the Senior High Band played "The Marriage of Figaro," which was written by W.A. Mozart. Also, Choral Director Patty Meyer led the Senior High Chorus in the song, "All Star," which is by Greg Camp as performed by Smashmouth.

Two foreign exchange students were also mentioned at graduation, Emeline Mavie Maillet from France and Lucie Devaux from Belgium

The following awards were given out Friday night:

The Andre Natowich Memorial Scholarship (inaugural award) to Jaida Henry and Joshua Hanson. The Natalie Alexander Wellman Scholarship to Daniel Burdo. John J. Oswiak Jr. The Career Center Scholarship to Craig Worden. The Austine Awards to Clare Thomas, Gideon May, Mitchell Redfield and Jacob Gartenstein. The Arthur J. Monroe Cup to Daniel Burdo. The Harold Wagner Memorial Award to Emma Davis. The Diedrich Stolte Memorial Cup to Evan Perkins and Morgan Derosia. The Lieutenant Colonel George M. Broutsas Award to Breanna Sheehan and Tyler Clement. The Lundberg Prizes to Claire Thomas and Gideon May. The School Directors Award to Breanna Sheehan. The Principal's Trophy & Award to Breanna Sheehan.

The students threw their caps into the air and then the Senior High Band played them out.

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275


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