BUHS Class of 2017: Graduates ready to 'shout from the mountain tops'


Harmony Birch, hbirch@reformer.com

BRATTLEBORO — 187 students donned shiny, purple caps and gowns Friday night at Brattleboro Union High School.

Each student in the Class of 2017 had a different plan, but all of them felt like the education they received at BUHS was one of a kind.

Bridger Grout said he had no plans after high school, but he's proud he graduated. BUHS offered him more opportunities than he thought he would get at other schools. "It's big and has a lot of free classes because of the career center being so close," he said.

Tatiahna Mitchell said her friends shaped her experience. "I wouldn't have made it here if it weren't for my friends," she said. In the fall she'll be attending Lyndon State College, in Lyndonville, for union services and pre-law. She advised her fellow graduates to make their lives "something special," and to "be happy."

Athenais Ly, a French Foreign Exchange student, couldn't stop singing BUHS's praises. She said everyone at BUHS was "really nice."

"The mentality of people is really enjoyable," she said, "and the teachers are awesome." Ly will be returning to France in the summer and plans on attending college there. She said she'll definitely come back to the U.S. and when she does, she'll be visting BUHS.

Though Valedictorian Ryan Taggard, claimed he was "dramatically under qualified to give life advice to anyone — let alone this group of talented graduates, " he did offer up some word of wisdom to his class.

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"Get out there. Stop waiting. Realize that inaction, like any other path forward, is a choice," Taggard said.

Taggard referenced his classmates in his speech and how far they'd all come. They're able to grow beards now and navigate the school's hallways without getting lost. He praised their sports efforts, and even took a friendly jab at the school's principal, Steve Perrin, and his affinity for bad jokes. He encouraged failure, referencing one of his favorite hockey players, Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky, Taggard said, "failed" 83 percent of his shots but is still "one of the greatest hockey players of all time." He told his classmates to embrace their failure. "That's just what it takes to succeed," he said.

Taggard pulled out some knowledge he'd learned while taking a class with English and drama teacher Robert Kramsky. In the class he learned about four different reactions people have towards scary challenges. The avoiders "try to do everything in their power to maintain their bubble." Next are the resisters who face problems only with "outside prompting." Taggard identified himself as an acceptor. Acceptors aren't "hunting for scary experiences," but they won't fight them if they're offered one. The last category is what Taggard urged his classmates to strive towards, the seekers. The seekers actively look to challenge themselves. "The seekers, by facing full on what scares them, by seizing the moment, by taking the shot and being unafraid to miss, find themselves pushing their limits," he said.

Jack Spanierman, the student Taggard commended for being able to grow a beard, served as the class speaker. Spanierman encouraged his fellow classmates to take the unique experiences offered to them at BUHS and use them to make the world a better place. The experiences that the Class of 2017 shared at BUHS united them, Spanierman said.

"We will always be connected to this school and town, whether we like it or not," Spanierman said. "Its quirks and abnormalities have made us the unique class that we are, full of young artists, doctors, teachers, warriors, workforce participants and, most importantly, students."

Spanierman pointed to some of the more "exceptionally strange" things that made Brattleboro unique like the Strolling of the Heifers. What makes Brattleboro really unique to Spanierman, however, is "how we react to adversity." He referenced Windham County tragedies such as the fire at the Brooks House, which has been renovated and hosts a number of businesses, and the Putney General Store — which has seen a number of tragedies since its inception in the1790s, but recovers every time.

"Life will knock us down, but what defines us is our decision to get back up," Spanierman said. "We have been given the tools we need to make [our] voices heard in the world, and all that's left to do is shout from the mountaintops."

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.


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