By Abigail Diehl-Noble
Photos by Tanna Kelton
A packed audience listened during the high school commencement ceremony of the Lake Champlain Waldorf School (LCWS) on Saturday, June 9 as the 10 graduating students sang in harmony, recited poetry, and spoke from the heart about their experience of learning and community at the independent school based in Charlotte and Shelburne.
This year’s LCWS graduates include Shelburne residents Carl Heyerdahl, who will attend Ithaca College in New York, and Ezra Sassaman, who will be attending Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.
For the graduation ceremony, the school drew upon the festivals and celebrations that mark each student’s career. On the first day of each school year, every first grade student is presented with a rose and welcomed to the community by a high school senior. At graduation, seniors received roses once more to mark the completion of their education.
The background of their diploma was a watercolor painting by an alumnus. Students wore their own (in some cases self-designed and sewn) clothing rather than a gown. Each also wore a purple sash on which, in the previous week, they had embroidered their name. The sashes carry the names of all seniors who have graduated from the school, a tangible history of a community the students are leaving but to which they will always belong.
The seniors’ personal send-off is a culmination of their unusual education, which integrated arts, movement, practical work, and service into rigorous academics. The LCWS is the largest K-12 private school in Vermont, and many graduating students had attended since preschool.
The experience created deep community, according to Ezra Sassaman of Shelburne, who delivered the senior class address. “We came to not just tolerate, but embrace each other’s differences. They added a depth that would have been lacking if we only befriended people like ourselves, with the same interests and dreams. We were not exactly a family, but we were a tribe.”