Champlain Valley Union High School’s 48th commencement

Photo by Molly Stone

by Lin Stone

Whether you were excited and confident it would happen, or you bit your nails and held baited breath awaiting final grades or test scores, at 1 pm on Friday, June 15 CVU’s class of 2012 graduated. Three hundred and forty students shuffled in to Patrick Gymnasium and a little over an hour later, with whoops and hollers, waves of red-gowned students flung caps up into the air and sailed out the door happy – they had completed this phase of their educational careers. Although the “Triumphal March” music for the senior processional was canned, the national anthem was sung live and a cappella in clear three-part harmony by students Alicia Phelps, Claire Sammut, and Jessica Dudley. Senior Tucker Kohlasch welcomed everyone, noting that good things come to those who wait, and senior speakers’ AnnaClare Smith, Chris Castano, and Kathryn Maitland separately and together encouraged students to dream, “go out there and shine,” and do so in a spirit of collaboration because “working together we are unstoppable.”

The class gift was benches and a tree for a seating area, which was dedicated to CVU’s unsung heroes, the hard-working and good-natured custodial crew, who on this day received a standing ovation.

Next was guest speaker, Adam Bunting, whose comments to the class of 2012 were as expected from this CVU alum and teacher of 14 years: warm, humorous, honest, and poignant. According to Bunting, there were bets on when – not if – he would cry during the address, as this was his “farewell lecture” at CVU. Bunting is a Shelburne native, and he graduated from CVU 18 years ago with the class of 1994. He demurred about being asked to speak at graduation, and joked that he was “the guy that never left high school” and that he has “never done anything incredible such as saving puppies from burning buildings.” Bunting will leave CVU and begin next semester as the new principal of Montpelier High School. Bunting sang the class of 2012’s praises with the genuine warmth and humor that has made him a favorite for many years: “I go to school with a bunch of ‘Loraxes’” he jibed. “You young people care about your community. You remind me to ‘flip off the lights, Bunting’ whenever I leave the room. You put on the largest community service project ever held [referring to the class’s response to help the Waterbury community post-hurricane Irene]. You are ridiculously well behaved. I waited for trouble, but you produced almost none. You care about your world and you care about your community.”

On a more serious note Bunting added, “You will be asked several times in your lives ‘to move on’ and to negotiate times of transition. You’ll ask yourself ‘will I be OK?’ I have confidence in you all. Failure and pain are twin teachers, you’ll learn the most, not from your successes, but from your failures and mistakes. You will survive many bad decisions when you may have taken a ‘vacation from responsibility.’ You will have been dumped on, and cheated on. So let’s embrace the pain and move on to answer different questions. Know that you are OK. You are here. Be confident. Be strong. Your scars and flaws are consistent reminders of success—more so than are the transitory nature of awards and success. I am leaving CVU now too, and I am proud to graduate with you—we’ll move on and we’ll ‘Be OK.’”

Offering the closing words at the commencement ceremony was 2012 class member Mikayla Morin. She echoed the affirming tenor of Bunting’s address and reminded students to “take a break; focus on be-ing. We are not human do-ings, human fear-ings. What you are and what you have is enough.”

Like any good course of study, the students and teacher’s messages on this graduation day all added up: Move on. Care. Work together. Dream. Shine. Be. And as Bunting concluded, “Be OK” CVU Class of 2012.

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