‘Kindness’ Is Key at Whitcomb
Class advisor and graduation speaker Wendy Pratt gives gifts to each of the 15 graduating seniors at the Whitcomb Jr.-Sr. High School 127th commencement exercises in Bethel, Vt., on June 14, 2014. During her speech, Pratt had the seniors deliberate briefly on a one-word summation of her years of imparted advice, before they recited "kindness" in unison. (Valley News - Will Parson)
Susie Rogers sheds a tear while hugging graduating senior Shelby Washburn during the Whitcomb Jr.-Sr. High School 127th commencement exercises in Bethel, Vt., on June 14, 2014. Rogers presented Washburn with the Donna Whitmore Memorial Merit Award, a $100 scholarship named after Rogers' sister, who worked as an instructional assistant at the school and passed away in 2006. (Valley News - Will Parson)
Graduating senior Kaili Walton poses for a photo with her mother Dawn Stone, taken by Stone's partner Daryl Porcelli as he stands with Walton's grandfather Herk White after the Whitcomb Jr.-Sr. High School 127th commencement exercises in Bethel, Vt., on June 14, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)
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Bethel — Whitcomb Junior-Senior High School principal Kevin Dirth began Saturday’s graduation ceremony with a quote by Henry Ford.
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success,” Dirth said. “Seniors, I’m thrilled for you today. You’re completing a milestone. It’s fitting that we commemorate the road you’ve traveled and that we do it as a community.”
Dirth ended his welcome with an activity. He told the parents in the audience to stand, followed by grandparents, extended family, teachers and friends. As each group of people stood, they were greeted by a loud round of applause. By the end of the exercise, everyone in the audience was standing.
“These are the people who have loved and supported you,” Dirth said. “Seek out one or two people in the audience that you would like to thank.” After the seniors exchanged hugs and thank-yous with their loved ones, they returned to their seats and the ceremony continued.
In co-valedictorian Kaili Walton’s speech, she spoke to each of her classmates, telling them what she admired and appreciated about their individual characters.
“I wish you all the best in your future endeavors,” Walton said. “I know we can accomplish anything if we set our minds to it.” Co-valedictorian Alexis Burnham was teary-eyed as she gave her speech, but nevertheless gave sage advice to her classmates.
“This is the part where you find out who you really are,” Burnham said. “And if you feel like you’ve failed, remember that amateurs built the ark and professionals built the Titanic.”
As the laughs from the audience quieted, Burnham continued in a more serious vein.
“If people have doubts about you, surprise them,” Burnham said. “You don’t have to live perfectly. Just honestly.”
The class of 2014 chose their class advisor, Wendy Pratt, as their graduation speaker.
“I remember the day you came to your first class meeting in 7th grade,” Pratt said. “I told you to hold on because it would fly by. And it has been a whirlwind.” Pratt advised the graduates to think about how they can use their gifts to make the world a better place.
“Brene Brown, the famous public speaker, reminds us that we aren’t perfect — and that’s OK,” Pratt said. “Do your best, but beyond that, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn how to accept imperfections in yourself and in others. Let your compassion shine through.”
At the end of her speech, Pratt asked the seniors to take a few seconds to talk among themselves and identify the one-word lesson that Pratt had tried to instill in the students.
“I’ll give you a hint: it’s not a math term,” Pratt joked.
After a few seconds of whispering among themselves, the seniors shouted out in unison, “Kindness!”
“Kindness. That’s it. Be kind,” Pratt said. “I love you all, and best of luck.”
Whitcomb graduated 15 seniors this year. The seniors collectively won over $23,000 in scholarship money, and collected numerous awards and honors.
Lauren Bender can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3211.
CLASS OF 2014
Benedikt Agustsson; Nicole Begin; Alexis Burnham; Kristopher DeCoff; Allison Dundas; Paul Fleming; Steven Gentzel; Matthew Mears; Tabetha Miller; Cody Morrill; Scott Nickerson; Cody Quillia; Ashley Stearns; Kaili Walton; Shelby Washburn.