MIDDLEBURY — Students were told to eat their vegetables, be wary of advice, experience life, succumb to positive peer pressure, follow their passions and excite their imaginations at Middlebury Union High School’s graduation last Saturday at Memorial Sports Center.
Will Conlon, one of three valedictorians to speak at commencement, discussed the influence of his friends and peers on his high school experience. He would not have joined the cross country running or Nordic skiing teams nor attempted to donate blood without his friends convincing him. Conlon credits those as some of the best decisions he made in his high school career.
“I’m betting it was true for all of you, and I know it was true for me, that the biggest influence in my high school career was my peers…Peer pressure almost guided my high school life, and I was really happy with the way it turned out,” he said he told a full house.
Conlon hoped his peers would recognize their influence and use it positively.
“I want the class of 2012 to know that they are an influence on one another,” he said. “And they should use that influence for good.”
Stephen Peters-Collaer, another tri-valedictorian, told the audience that he didn’t want to give his classmates too much advice, aware that almost everyone they talk to in the coming months will do so. He also noted that any advice they receive, while valuable, comes from another’s perspective and may not be applicable to their lives.
He did impart one piece of advice that many of his classmates have probably heard before.
“Eat your vegetables,” he said. “If we eat our vegetables, chances are we’ll live long enough to experience a fascinating life, hopefully achieve our ambitions, and at the very least have plenty of stories to tell our grandchildren.”
He concluded his speech on a more serious note, reminding his classmates that their hopes and ambitions are theirs and they shouldn’t leave them behind because someone tells them to.
“Any advice that makes us abandon our dreams is bad advice,” he said. “While we should listen to the recommendations of others, we have to make sure to hold on to our passions.”
Tri-valedictorian Emma Ryan was impressed by her classmates’ zeal and urged them to hold onto it throughout their lives.
“When I think about our class, what stands out to me is the fact that we are so passionate about so many different things,” she said. “We have been prepared and taught to enter the world and leave an imprint. Let’s not let that preparation go to waste … Let’s stay interested in the world.”
Graham Barlow, a tri-salutatorian, observed that he and his classmates have been shaped largely by experiences and hoped this will continue as they leave MUHS.
“In all our future endeavors, I hope we continue to prefer firsthand memories over secondhand accounts, choose learning the ‘hard way’ over being timid, and clean up a few figurative bruises and grass stains in the process,” he said. “I hope we keep experiencing.”
Tri-salutatorians Nellie Pierce and Hannah Kraus performed instead of giving speeches. Pierce read T.S. Eliot’s poem “Burnt Norton” and Kraus sang Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”
Principal Bill Lawson recognized high-achieving students who received the school’s department awards. The recipients were as follows: English, Hannah Kraus; Fine Arts, Elise Biette; Mathematics, Stuart Guertin; Science, Julian Marohnic; Social Studies, Jessica Aubin; and World Languages, Addison Tate.
Superintendent Gail Conley honored Don McIntosh, who retired this month after 36 years as a physical education teacher at Middlebury Union Middle School.
McIntosh, an avid outdoorsman, had a brief message for the seniors before him.
“Put adventure in your lives,” he said. “Get away from that computer, that TV screen, and all those i-things you have, and go on an adventure.”
Guidance counselors Alison Stebe and Mark Thuma presented more than $120,000 in local and Vermont scholarships to several members of the senior class continuing on to post-secondary education.
After the senior vocal ensemble performed John Mayer’s “Say,” Conley and school board chair Leonard Barrett presented the class of 2012 with their diplomas. One-hundred-seventy-one students moved the tassel on their mortarboards from right to left, signaling the completion of their time at MUHS.
Of those 171 students, 29 achieved grade-point averages above 3.75 and another 18 earned GPAs of 3.5 or higher. Thirty-two earned membership in the National Honor Society, 13 in the National Voc-Tech Honor Society, and nine in the National Arts Honor Society.
Despite being fresh out of high school, Peters-Collaer hoped to see his classmates down the road.
“Make sure to eat your vegetables,” he said, “so that we’ll live long enough to tell our own stories at our 50th class reunion.”
Intern Kaitlyn Kirkaldy is at firstname.lastname@example.org.