St. Michael's holds 1st graduation in 51 years
BRATTLEBORO — Only six navy blue graduation caps soared into the sky Friday night, but that's six more than Saint Michael's Roman Catholic School has seen in 51 years.
Five young men and one young lady made up the first class to graduate from the reopened high school since 1968.
Saint Michael's School is only one of three Catholic high schools in the state — Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington being the two others.
For the past four years the six students trail-blazed and ushered the high school into a new century, making it official at commencement. Families gathered inside Rand Hall at the Walnut Street school to celebrate their loved ones and all they had accomplished.
Lucy Duchaney, Gabrielle Wilkinson, Matthew Jacques, Jacob Christi, Rodney Duteaux and Connor Andrus, the class of 2019, celebrated and reflected on what the school had given them.
For Valedictorian Lucy Duchaney, 18, the school helped her get closer to heaven.
"Every parent who sends their child to school here knows, at least on some level, that their children are going to be taught and formed by the Catholic faith," Duchaney said.
She explained the non-traditional aspects of the school including a crucifix in every classroom, prayers are said before meals and students rush to the chapel for confession on Friday mornings.
"Saint Michael's exists to help us get to heaven it has given me some of the best years of my life," she added.
Duchaney plans on attending Vermont Community College to pursue a nursing degree.
For Principal Elaine Beam, it has given her faith that catholic education is still growing, alive and well.
Justin Baker, pastor of Saint Michael's Parish, echoed Beam and said how many catholic schools have closed across the country in recent years.
According to the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), between 2000 and 2006, nearly 600 Catholic elementary and secondary schools closed, a 7 percent decline, and nearly 290,000 students left, almost 11 percent.
Saint Michael's school re-established as a high school in 2015 when families requested it to be such. There are no other Catholic high school options in the southern part of Vermont or in neighboring towns in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
"This day is truly remarkable," Baker said. He has been the pastor of the school for the past three years.
"These guys should be really proud of themselves," he added.
Of the six graduates, four will be attending college, one will be working with his family's business and one is undecided. They will all be joining the St. Michael High School Alumni Association - an association Beam says is still very active.
Gabrielle Wilkinson, 17, who gave the Senior Reflection Speech, said Saint Michael's prepared him for college. He plans on attending Vermont Technical College for computer engineering and cyber security.
But Saint Michael's gave him something more than his education.
"I would like to thank Saint Michael's for an outstanding learning experience that changed me as a person, as a student and as a friend. Saint Michael's is more than just a school," Wilkinson said.
"It's a family."
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