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Oxbow Class Now Values Good Deeds

Once Dubbed the ‘Meanest,’ Seniors Thank Their Mentors

  • Michelle Mahikoa drapes a fresh flower lei around the neck of her son, Quinten Mahikoa before his graduation from Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. Mahikoa's grandmother lives in Hawaii and sent him the leis as a graduation gift. (<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Michelle Mahikoa drapes a fresh flower lei around the neck of her son, Quinten Mahikoa before his graduation from Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. Mahikoa's grandmother lives in Hawaii and sent him the leis as a graduation gift. (
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Drew Pierso fixes Ethan Johnson's sash while lining up for the Oxbow High School graduation in Bradford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. (<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Drew Pierso fixes Ethan Johnson's sash while lining up for the Oxbow High School graduation in Bradford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. (
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Michelle Mahikoa drapes a fresh flower lei around the neck of her son, Quinten Mahikoa before his graduation from Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. Mahikoa's grandmother lives in Hawaii and sent him the leis as a graduation gift. (<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Drew Pierso fixes Ethan Johnson's sash while lining up for the Oxbow High School graduation in Bradford, Vt., on June 13, 2014. (<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

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Bradford, Vt. — Eliza Russ told a packed Oxbow Union High School gymnasium Friday evening that when she went on a recent trip to the impoverished and storm-ravaged Caribbean nation of Haiti, she wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I did not know how a girl from Bradford, Vt., with no work experience could be of any help in Haiti,” she said.

She needn’t have worried, the class valedictorian said.

“Little did I know that the people of Haiti didn’t expect anything from me. They are the type of people who are thankful for what little they have: their health, faith, family and education. When my group was brought to the village of Leveque, a bunch of elementary-school kids came running to greet us as we came off the bus.”

Closer to home, Russ last fall traveled to Newtown, Conn., where a devastating tragedy of a different sort visited Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, leaving 20 young school children and six staff members dead.

A local church youth group there decided that giving would aid the healing process, and performing “mission work” was the way to give back to people for the outpouring of support that continues in their community.

“As a matter of fact, the youth group from Newtown will be in Bradford this summer, helping our community. So, if you see them, give them a wave,” Russ said.

Russ herself benefited from hel from others. She thanked the community for helping her family after they suffered a house fire this winter.

The 69 members of the Class of 2014 marked Oxbow’s 43rd commencement, and even sported two class presidents. Emily Chase and Savannah Fay shared the podium.

They recalled that, despite being only seventh-graders at the time, their class was somehow pegged as the school’s meanest.

“We were brought into the auditorium to be talked to; we had the worst attendance records,” Chase said.

But “we all talked to each other, we’re all good friends,” Fay pointed out. “We started from the bottom, now we’re here,” she told the audience.

Chase said teacher Matthew Madan’s help and kindness helped everyone through the hectic days that led to commencement, and the two singled out several classmates for their fine qualities, including Katie Kearney, who always “says something nice to make anyone feel good,” Fay said.

The school started what Principal Larry Walsh said would be a new tradition, allowing students to invite to a commencement “honor guard” teachers and other school personnel who had been of particular help or inspiration to them from as far back as kindergarten.

Graduate Jazmin Shaw chose Newbury Elementary School’s Nancy Goodrich, who taught her in fourth and sixth grade.

The 26 who were honored as they marched into the gymnasium with the graduating call came from Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Tennessee, Walsh said.

Bob Hookway can be reached at bobhook@juno.com.

CLASS OF 2014

Allard, W. Tanner, Johnson State College; Armstrong, Ashley L, Old Dominion; Bassett, Chelsea, Cosmetology; Beck, Kelcie, New Hampshire Technical Institute; Butler, Brett, Air National Guard; Chamberlin, Sarah, Johnson State College; Chase, Emily, University of Kentucky; Clark, Jasmin, Johnson and Wales Baking; Cook, Anna, St. Michaels College; Craig, Kasie, University of Vermont; Dow, Jody, White Mountain Community College; Doyle, Deryk, USMC; Emerson, Curtis, University of Northwestern Ohio; Erno, Michaela, Vermont Technical College; Fay, Brian, Northlands Culinary; Fay, Savannah, Syracuse University; Fisk, Brittani; French, Sabrina, Keene State College; Gadapee, Tyler; Gendron, Taren, Lyndon State College; Germain, Daniel; Gillis, Tyler, Lyndon State College; Hanzas, Leah, St. Michaels College; Hatin, Dylan, University of Toledo; Hodge, Michael, University of Vermont; Hodge, Mikayla, Lyndon State College; Hutchinson, Cassie, Castleton State College; Hynes, William; Jenks, Sage; Johnson, Ethan, National Guard; Johnson, Grady, Lyndon State College; Kearney, Katherine, New Hampshire Technical Institute; LaPlante, Sade, CCV; Lund, Kyle; Mahikoa, Quinten, Southern Maine Community College; Martin, Alona, USMC; McLam, Christopher, USAF; Moreno-Garcia, Iris, Johnson State College; Morrison, Kristin, VTC; Murphy, John Michael; Musgrave-Losey, Patrick, Norwich University; O’Connell, Cody, Purdue University; Osgood, Emilie; Parent, Travis; Pierson, Drew, Colby-Sawyer; Pittman, Kodie, University of Northwestern Ohio; Pryer, Madison, Paul Mitchell School; Ratel, Jonathan, Keene State College; Roberts, Rachel, Southern New Hampshire University; Russ, Eliza, UVM; Shaw, Jazmin, Lyndon State College; Shumway, Rachael, Community College of Vermont; Sidney, Scott, Paul Smith; Smith, Lawrence, Ohio Technical College; Stevens-Metcalf, HelenMae, Lyndon State College; Strock, Amber, Dartmouth College; Thompson, Molly, Keene Beauty School; Tomlinson, Lauren, Castleton State College; Torrey, Hunter, Lyndon State College; Trischman, Cameron, University of Northwestern Ohio; Trojanowski, Alura, Johnson State College; White, Heather, Lyndon State College; Williams, Meghan, UVM; Wright, Malaina, Castleton State College.

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