By Rachel Gill
Embrace individuality, pursue your passions and pause for reflection. This advice served as inspiration among speeches at Champlain Valley Union High School’s 49th commencement, held June 15 at University of Vermont’s Patrick Gym.
Before ceremonies began, the 350 soon-to-be graduates gathered in the lobby of Patrick Gym. Though the red robes were the same, it was easy to tell them apart, thanks to their uniquely decorated mortarboards—emblazoned with everything from ruby red sequins to magazine cutouts of supermodels.
CVU senior Lexi Delaire of Williston used shiny silver studs to display the message, “Kiss me I’m a graduate!”
The playful message matched her excitement.
“I’m so excited but I’m really going to miss a lot, especially friends and all of the CVU activities like the dances and the Rally in the Valley,” said Delaire, who plans to attend Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina this fall.
Delaire was joined by fellow members of the Class of 2013 Katie Boutin and Ashley Lawrence, both of Williston.
“All of this has been so worth it,” said Boutin, who is set to attend UVM’s nursing school this fall. “To be on our own, go off to college and to take care of ourselves is a little nerve-wracking.”
Lawrence—headed to Community College of Vermont this fall—said she will miss CVU’s connectedness.
“We have a very strong welcoming committee at CVU so there’s always someone there to listen,” Lawrence said. “I know I will miss that and my teachers very much.”
Graduate Sam Rose of Williston, who will attend Clarkson University this fall, holds his teachers in high regard, as well.
“I’ve had some awesome teachers over the last four years,” Rose said. “CVU has been awesome.”
With bleachers packed with friends, family and CVU faculty, ceremonies kicked off with a welcome by Allison Zengilowski, who accented her cap and gown with shiny black high heels.
“Graduation is not something you have to get through, it is meant for you to take a pause,” Zengilowski said. “I challenge you to let this pause for celebration and reflection linger beyond today, elongate the pause to get in touch with yourself. It’s finally our time to go out and do something. It’s our time to go out and live.”
Her advice—get out there.
“I urge you to go on a road trip, go to New Zealand for a few months, have a movie marathon, go camping, go hiking,” Zengilowski said.
Senior speaker Keith Kelly spoke of fellow graduates as “truly unique and amazing individuals” who all have a job to do.
“Each and every one of us is born with a gift and it is our job in life to pursue it,” Kelly said. “Listen to your gut and do whatever you are passionate about, you will one day reach your initial goal as long as you maintain determination and stay true to yourself.”
Guest speaker Rahn Fleming, CVU wrestling and junior varsity football coach and Learning Center coordinator, gave the commencement address. He encouraged graduates to imagine they were all just sitting around his table in the learning center.
“You are, as much as any class has ever been, a group that restores hope. I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Fleming said.
As for what he most wanted to say to the graduates, Fleming said, he kept thinking of the same two words.
“You matter,” Fleming proclaimed. “Don’t you ever forget, you, that’s right you, matter.”
As Fleming began to tear up, it prompted a round of applause from graduates.
“Not because of the sports you played or the shows you starred in or the musical pieces you performed or the papers you wrote or the grades you got or the honors you received, not because of any of these,” Fleming said. “Your value is an expression of those things, they are not its source. You matter.”
All 350 seniors, one by one, received their diploma to officially become graduates of the Class of 2013.
Lily Harris offered the final farewell on behalf of graduates.
Harris asked fellow graduates to “stand and repeat after me.”
“I promise to not give up in the face of challenge, I will be courageous, I will be strong, I will succeed,” Harris said. “With that, I would like to end in saying, congratulations to the Class of 2013.”