Woodstock Class ‘Has an Old Soul’

Standing behind the hockey glass at Union Arena, Tyler Waters points out to the seats that are filling up with proud parents for Friday's Woodstock Union High School graduation. (Ben DeFlorio photograph)

Standing behind the hockey glass at Union Arena, Tyler Waters points out to the seats that are filling up with proud parents for Friday's Woodstock Union High School graduation. (Ben DeFlorio photograph)

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Woodstock — Dark rainclouds loomed outdoors, but inside Woodstock Union Arena, the rink was filled with sunflowers.

About 90 graduates of Woodstock Union High School’s Class of 2014 sat ready to receive their diplomas Friday evening, the school’s traditional sunflower boutonnières pinned to their chests and a backdrop of green and white fabric draped behind them.

But first, there were processions to walk, songs to sing and student speeches to give, the first from salutatorian Amelia Sheppard.

“On this beautiful Friday the 13th, we are graduating from high school,” she said, taking a jab at the weather. “I have to say despite the superstitions associated with this day, I feel pretty lucky. I’m lucky to have had such a wonderful high school experience ... but mostly I’m lucky that I haven’t tripped yet. Hopefully I haven’t spoken too soon.”

Sheppard never tripped, and the proceedings continued with a rendition of Lady Antebellum’s I Was Here by the Treble Choir, featuring Sheppard as a lead vocalist and graduate Luke Dupuis on the guitar.

Graduates Madison Chism, Ted Morley and Kachine Schaible performed the annual speak chorus, a 30-minute spoken performance in which they paid homage to inside jokes and called out each of their classmates to remember their standout actions and characteristics.

They got big laughs for their shout-out to Conor Joyce, recalling an eighth-grade trip to the Tunbridge Fair in which he “made his famous comment” to a cameraman. (It involved fried dough.)

Class president Elizabeth Kamb recalled the first day of high school, including the nice outfits everyone wore and the early-morning photos that many parents insisted on taking. That day four years ago was not too unlike graduation, she said.

“On that first day, we were intimidated and nervous,” she said, “but we couldn’t wait to find out what adventures we would encounter within the next four years. ... We’re now entering the real world, where we’re at the bottom of the totem pole again, as if we’re freshmen. Only this time, we know more about ourselves and we’re closer to figuring out what types of people we’re going to be.”

She and her classmates were “making our debut into a world that needs our help,” she said, speaking to problems such as hunger, war and consumerism. She asked her classmates to try to make a difference and said they had the skill, energy and passion to do so.

“I am confident not only that we are ready for the world, but that the world better be ready for us,” she said.

The night also featured recognition of the Class of 1964 for their 50-year anniversary, as well as the concert band’s rendition of It’s Time by Imagine Dragons. Dupuis was back on guitar, soloing to applause, while fellow graduate Alastair Bones drummed on a kit with “2014” emblazoned across the kick drum.

The thing that stood out about his class, Dupuis said after the ceremony, was the way that they all bonded, free of grudges or animosity.

“We were all really accepting of each other,” he said, standing in front of the arena, a chilly mist surrounding the graduates as they funneled outside.

Fellow graduate Asa Amirkiaee agreed, saying he’s loved his time at Woodstock because of the way the community is committed to the school.

“The school brings out the best in everybody,” he said.

Around them, friends and families posed for pictures with the graduates, decked in green and white gowns, many dressed in fancy shoes and at least one person wearing slippers. Nearby, principal Greg Schillinger said the Class of 2014 was special for its maturity.

“This is a class whose character, the core of their character, is so strong and adult and mature. ... This class has an old soul,” Schillinger said. “They’re wise beyond their years. ... We’re in good hands.”

The night also included a speech by valedictorian Alexandra McFarland, who spoke to the value of human connections in an age of virtual communication, saying her generation can be “easily blinded by the constant buzz of text messages” or social media notifications.

“We see a picture of what someone’s up to, but then it disappears in three seconds,” she said, referring to the smartphone app Snapchat. “... This all passes for communication, but it’s really just headlines with no depth. The strongest connections are made face to face through conversation and involvement.”

She encouraged her classmates to “remember there’s a life away from the screen that can bring us true success,” and to form personal bonds through acts such as volunteering, getting to know coworkers and joining clubs or teams.

“We are primed to do great things, but we cannot do them alone,” McFarland said, before wishing her Class of 2014 comrades well in the world.

“As you do great things and meet great people, don’t forget to stay connected,” she said, “and make sure to keep me posted on Facebook.”

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.


Asa Shurtleff Amirkiaee, Vermont Technical College; Anne Kristin Arthur, Babson College; Douglas John Avellino, Wentworth Institute of Technology; Megan Elizabeth Balch, Saint Joseph’s College of Maine; Thomas Hart Baumann, gap year; Aleksandr Thomas Beaudoin, North Carolina State University; Andrew Gregory Becker, Syracuse University; Shannah Sage Blain, Massachusetts College of Art & Design; Ashleigh Bryanna Bone, Husson University; Alastair Rory Vaughan Bones, Loyola University New Orleans; Matthew Richard Broadwell; Christopher Howard Chase, Lyndon State College; Madison Reed Chism, gap year; Olivia Louise Clement, University of Vermont; Cailey Mae Clough, Community College of Vermont; Samuel Thomas Cole, University of Northwestern Ohio; Zachary Karl Cole, United States Marine Corps; Kent Lawrence Robert Dalton, United States Navy; Hayden Frank Darling; Corey Andrew DeCota, Army National Guard; Olivia Rose DeDell, Community College of Vermont; Lily Ann Denmeade, defer from Acadia University to travel; Nicholas Ladd Donaldson, gap year; Luke Allen Dupuis, Columbia College Chicago ; Benjamin Grier Eagan; Marissa Simone Farbman, Duke University; Nathan Taylor Fegard, Arizona State University; Brielle Ida Finer, St. Lawrence University; Annie Faith Flower, gap year; Christopher James Flynn, University of Northwestern Ohio; Shelby Hanlon Gault, Bryant University; Brendan Kelly Geiger, Wheaton College; Alexander John Geschardt, Green Mountain College; Jane Lillian Goodwin, Haverford College; Megan Karin Gray, Bates College; Grace Lee Hansen; Benjamin Charles Joseph Hartig-Orr, Emmanuel College; Helene Marguerite Herrick, Castleton State College; Autumn Storm Hickory, River Valley Community College; Bradley James, Hinson, gap year; Erica Rochelle Holm, Community College of Vermont; Carolyn Elizabeth Hopkins, University of Vermont; Emma Katrina Hotchkiss, Endicott College; Emily Taylor Jillson, Community College of Vermont; Conor Kempton Joyce, gap year; Oliver Andrew Kaija, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Elizabeth Rae Kamb, St. Lawrence University; Dylan James Kuhn, work; Edward Craig Lawlor; Joseph Scott Lawlor; Bradley James Lewis, University of New Hampshire; Eric Daniel Lewis, gap year; Kyle Allen Longley; Michael Paul Martel, gap year; Alexandra Finn McFarland, Cornell University; Maria Melendy, work; Kristen Kate Miller, University of South Carolina Aiken; Theodore James Morley, McGill University; Aidan Joseph Mumford, University of Vermont; Brandy Lynn Murray, work; Jeffrey Eric Nass, Jr., gap year; Melvin Bauer Neisner, III, Saint Louis University; Hailey (Helen) Rike Noble, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Tessa Chance Oliver, The New School; Justin Max Peyton; Margaret Rachael Pierce, gap year; Matthew John Poljacik, United States Marine Corps; Carter Elliott Pratt, gap year; Owen E Putnam, gap year; Anna Lea Ramsey, Colby College; Brittany Marie Sawyer, Castleton State College; Kachine Sun Schaible, State University of New York at New Paltz; Alexander Henry Sheppard, Emerson College; Amelia Louise Sheppard, Harvey Mudd College; Kathleen Susan Sheppard, Babson College; Kaitlyn Sara Skalla; Taylor Elisabeth Smith, University of New Hampshire; Thomas Louis Smyrski; William Allyn Steller, University of Utah; Thomas Warren Stevens; Cassandra Renee Thompson, Bryant University; Stephen William Titus, University of Northwestern Ohio; Hannah Drew Tobey, University of Vermont; Katherine Ann McFate Tucker, Bucknell University; Oliver Ross Vicar, defer to travel and work; Ethan Patrick Wade, gap year; Tyler Cho Waters, work; Karli Elizabeth Weinberg; Kassidi Sue Williams; Erin Melissa Wood, Castleton State College; William Wentworth Yates; Samuel Weston Zonay, University of Vermont.


In a speech during the Woodstock Union High School graduation ceremony Friday, valedictorian Alexandra Finn McFarland said, “We see a picture of what someone’s up to, but then it disappears in three seconds. ... This all passes for communication, but it’s really just headlines with no depth.” Part of McFarland’s quotation was transcribed incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.


A Sampling of Speeches from Graduation 2014: ‘This Is the Part Where You Find Out Who You Really Are’

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

As the Upper Valley’s high school graduation season rolls to a close — Randolph Union High School will host its ceremony this evening — here’s a look back at some of the best lines from graduates’ speeches. Find our full list of graduation stories at the bottom of this page, browse graduation photo galleries on our Photos page, and view …