Twin Valley graduates a resilient family

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By Chris Mays

Brattleboro Reformer

WILMINGTON — Even if they couldn't be in the same physical space during the last part of the school year, the Twin Valley senior class celebrated the end of their high school days together.

"If I had to choose one word to describe our class, I would choose resilient," Jessie Lazelle, class president, told the crowd at the start of Saturday's graduation ceremony. "You guys are so much more than classmates. You're my family."

This year, Twin Valley graduated 29 students. The class had previously participated in a vehicle parade in early June when the ceremony was originally scheduled.

School officials postponed the commencement ceremony to wait out restrictions the state put on gathering sizes. Families arrived at Hayford Field in Wilmington and left at staggered times, sitting in socially distanced "pods" of eight and wearing masks.

Lucas Messing, valedictorian, noted all the events classmates had been alive for or experienced — including the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, the Twin Valley merger of Whitingham and Wilmington schools, changes to curriculum for proficiency-based learning, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and protests to address racial inequities.

"What a year to have to write a valedictorian speech," he said.

Lazelle recalled planning to fight the dress code in eighth grade and last year's protest against the no-backpack rule. More recently, her class participated in a walkout to demand action against climate change.

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"Our generation is so powerful and seeing us use our voices for change inspires me each and every day," she said.

Salutatorian Caylah Brewer closed her speech by congratulating the class, raising a fist and yelling "Black Lives Matter." Protestors supporting the movement for racial equity are not a danger to the society desired; they are challenging the status quo, she said.

Brewer called for people to condemn implicit biases that prop up a system built on racism.

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"Our window is small," she said, "so now is the time to act."

Logan Boyd, graduating senior, sang the national anthem before Principal Anna Roth told the class she was proud of their success. She said recently, the students might have wondered if the graduation ceremony was going to happen at all.

Roth wished the class a lifetime of "learning, exploration, adventure, happiness, good health, friendships and family."

"Along the way, you will make mistakes but that is how you will learn and grow," she said. "It's never too late to be the person you wanted to be. Who you are becoming is more important than who you used to be."

Samantha Mundt, art teacher at the middle/high school, advised the class not to stop learning, being passionate and fighting for what they believe in.

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"Thank you all for the memories and lessons you have taught me," she said in her address. "I'm a better person and educator because of it."

Before taking a class photo and walking into the ceremony, graduating senior Emily Hohn told the Reformer she was surprised to be at the event given the way plans were upended with the pandemic this year.

"All I have to say is thank God," said Arik Wing, graduating senior.

Owen Grinold, Lazelle, and Messing received Whitingham-Halifax Lions Club Scholarships. The Social Lodge #38 Newton Baker Memorial Scholarship went to Brewer, Grinold and Messing. Grinold and Messing received the Arthur G. Eastman Memorial Scholarship. The Cask & Kiln Kitchen Scholarship was awarded to Boyd and Messing. Yeongjun Yoo received the Merton Learnard Scholarship. Jasmine Denny was awarded the Quinque Davis Scholarship. Kara Bird received the James Fernot Award. The Dennis Butchko Scholarship presented by the Rotary Club of the Deerfield Valley went to Messing. Lazelle received the Wilmington Baptist Church Victory Grange Scholarship and Faculty Recognition Award.

The art department award went to Brianna O'Hearn. Lazelle and Yoo received the English department award. The industrial arts department award went to Joshua Hunt. Lazelle received awards from the science and social studies departments. The world language department award went to Messing. Bird received the yearbook department award.

The Vickey Marchegiani Athletic Memorial award went to Celia Betit, Bird and Lazelle. Betit received the Justin E. Carrier Award. The Bryan Hampshire Award went to Bird and Casey Sibilia. Grinold and Messing received the Phil Ware Award. School Directors' Awards went to Eric Bolognani, Jack McHale, Messing, Sibilia, Lazelle, Hunt, Grinold and Bird. Brewer received the Vermont Honor Scholarship and Philip E. Arnold Award. The John G. Doty Award, Russell Hanson Award and Jessica Bolognani Inspirational Scholarship went to Lazelle. Anthony Tanguay received the Douglas Bartlett Memorial Service Award. The Jarred Richard Bolognani Memorial Scholarship went to Bird, Grinold, Lazelle and Sibilia. Brewer and Messing were the Academic Achievement Award recipients.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.

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