Brattleboro graduates leave with fond memories

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BRATTLEBORO — Ari Essunfeld, valedictorian, told the Class of 2019 they were "lucky" to have gone to high school here.

"This town, this school, this is a place that values compassion," Essunfeld said Friday during the ceremony on Natowich Field at Brattleboro Union High School. "We have begun to create ourselves in a place that respects and treasures the differences between people. This is a place that cherishes the art and music that we create every day, the points we score and the records we break, the risks we take out of hope for the chance of doing something good."

Kathryn Wocell, class speaker, said the best stories involve experiences the students learned from.

"Our four years here is only a brief moment in relation to how much life is ahead of us and this is only the beginning," she said. "Thank you to BUHS as a whole to understand the concept of 'it takes a village.'"

Wocell counted 187 graduates among the class. She advised them to "never stop learning."

The graduates "have known confidence and fear, clarity and confusion, pride and regret, heartbreak and joy," Essunfeld said.

"All of us have persevered through countless challenges to this end, right here, right now: Graduation. Here we are. We have grown as people. We have grown as a community through the positive influences of each other and all the people in this place."

Essunfeld thanked attendees "for being with the people you love while we take this momentous step in our lives."

"Every single person here today has shaped and molded what will live on in their mind as 'high school,' and while everyone's story is unique, they are also all intertwined, every story connected to every other story," Essunfeld said after running through different types of stories graduates might be able to share about "forging and breaking and reforging powerful friendships, falling in and out of love, feeling something click and relishing that moment of 'aha!,' making hard apologies and feeling the weight of anticipation and irresolution evaporate from your shoulders, playing your heart out for the team that's become a second family, learning to love learning about that one thing you could talk and read and think about forever."

Essunfeld said he likes to think of the experiences the graduates shared as "a big glowing blob, all these semi-transparent sparkling nodes of energy, representing a person, us, the class of 2019, all of us together, with all these little paths of light and information zooming back and forth between the nodes representing all of our shared memories and experiences."

Essunfeld asked the class to think about: "What is one valuable realization you have made about who you want to be, as an individual and in relation to others? What has felt right? What has felt wrong, and why?"

"Ask yourself, actually ask yourself, 'What is the most important thing I have learned about myself in my time at BUHS?'" Essunfeld said. "Your answer is your beacon for the future."

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In a welcome speech, Emma Allen recalled writing a letter to herself in eighth grade at the direction of her English teacher. She said she wanted to study marine biology or something related to the ocean but now she is going to be a political science major.

"This letter gave me the chance to look back on how far I've come over the past four years," she said. "I hope that each and every graduate sitting here tonight has had the same opportunity. If you have, you may find that your own goals and aspirations have changed drastically. Or maybe you won't. Maybe you'll find that what you've learned in high school has only encouraged you to pursue your original dreams or to hone in on a particular skill."

Either way, Allen said, the class' experiences at BUHS "have shaped us into who we are today. Whether it was making your first few friends freshman year or staying up until three to finish a paper that you'd procrastinated until the last minute, each experience has come with its own lessons. Tonight marks the grand finale of these high school experiences and I hope that it's one you remember for the rest of your lives."

Before the ceremony, members of the graduating class spent time together between the school building and field.

"I'm very excited," Montana Corriveau, graduate, said. "I'm really nervous. I'm really anxious but I'm ready."

She said she would remember times spent with her best friend. Corriveau is heading to Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts to study dental hygiene.

Aidan Murphy, graduate, said it had been a long four years but it went by "pretty fast." He said he will remember all his time on the football field. He played tight end and defensive end.

Murphy plans to serve in the AmeriCorps for a year. He said he will likely attend college after.

Thomas Drummey, graduate, has been enrolled in an early college program, studying mechanical engineering at Vermont Technical College. He said he is halfway toward getting a degree.

Holden Hiler, graduate, said it had been "an interesting four years."

"I'm definitely ready for it all to culminate," she said, describing her class as a "strong community" of peers. "Our grade has a lot of togetherness."

Hiler said she is enrolled in "a really good global health program" at a school in South Carolina.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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