2018 Grads rock
WHITINGHAM- Seating in the Twin Valley Middle High School gymnasium was packed Saturday afternoon, as the community celebrated the Class of 2018 and sent them into the world.
Twin Valley Middle High School Principal Tom Fitzgerald bid farewell to the class of 34 seniors, and told them to treasure their small school experience. “This was your year to shine, and I really feel like you shined,” he said. “Good luck, and I know you're going to do a great job. Schools our size are a dying breed, and there are not a lot of classes of 34 to graduate. The state is working hard on that. A lot of you are going off to college and you're going to meet kids who graduated in a class of 1,000 or 1,500. Imagine how it would be not to be able to have a personalized education. Anything you wanted, we tried to make happen if it made sense.”
Salutatorian Grace Rizio said she hadn't wanted to speak at graduation, but later decided “this is a class that deserves it.” She noted that the class had watched some difficult times from their classrooms. “These have been some tough years for our country and for our tiny school in our tiny town in our tiny state, and all we could do is watch,” she said. “But that's no longer the case. Some of us will go off to different countries and learn different cultures. We will fight and push, and succeed in our endeavors.”
Valedictorian Tatyanna Bowman who received her associate degree from Community College of Vermont a week before graduating from Twin Valley, told the audience that she hadn't always been so academically driven. She recalled that when she was five, and just starting kindergarten, “I distinctly remember hiding from the bus,” she said. “I was once a rebel. It's true, I despised going to school.”
But she said moving to the valley and going to Twin Valley changed things for her. “They accepted me at school in seventh grade with open arms,” she said. “I became part of one big family. All of you are my family and I have never enjoyed school as much as I have the last six years.”
But it was guest speaker Chris Brown, Twin Valley physical education and health teacher, who fired up the crowd and stole the show. “I'd like to start by thanking everyone, blah, blah blah!” he started. “Did I lose you yet?”
Brown stopped, then leaped off the stage as Bill Conti's “Gonna Fly Now” (theme from Rocky) began blaring over the speakers and ran over to “high five” the graduates. He continued cheering on the graduates – and firing up the crowd - as Queen's “We Will Rock You” played.
Brown tore off his robe before leaping back onto the stage to share his advice with graduates. “When I was your age, I thought I had it all figured out,” he said. “As it turns out, this couldn't have been further from the truth. The truth is, most people don't have it figured out at 18.”
He told the graduates that as he got older and was on his own, the advice of the adults and teachers in his life began to make more sense. “Be selfish,” he told graduates. “Take care of yourself first, and only then can you take care of others. I encourage you to find some way to serve your community. Find time for yourself every day first. Spend as much time with family and friends as you can. They'll be the ones there for you when you need support the most.”
Brown said that his mother-in-law tells him often that “Not everyone is like you, Christopher, and you're not like everyone else. An eighth-grader told me I was weird the other day. To me, that's the ultimate compliment, because it means I'm my own person and I do what feels right to me. I try not to get swayed one way or the other based on what other people are doing and I use my moral compass to determine my next move.”
Brown also told graduates to “Be who you are. Be relentless in everything you do. Be a champ in life.”
Twin Valley social studies teacher Scott Salway told the graduates to “feel free to wear sunscreen” and appreciate life. “You don't appreciate things until they're gone,” he said. “You used to have nap time – teachers were trying to make you go to sleep. You're going to look back in a short amount of time and think about how much potential you really had. Don't congratulate yourself too much for your successes or beat yourself up too much for your failures.”