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Last Chelsea Class Walks Stage

  • Seven seniors, Chelsea High School's final graduating class, march from the school to the village green for commencement in Chelsea, Vt., Friday, June 8, 2018. “The world is crying out for you, and the world has many needs,” senior class advisor Stephanie Joyce told the class during her address. “The world needs your honesty, the world needs your fairness, the world needs your integrity.” (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tucker Chapin, left, pins a rose to the gown of classmate Emily Saunders as they prepare for Chelsea High School's final commencement in Chelsea, Vt., Friday, June 8, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Katya Sprague stands at the head of the line of Chelsea High School’s class of 2018 as they prepare to walk to the green for commencement in Chelsea, Vt., Friday, June 8, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Chelsea High School Principal Mark Blount joins in singing the Chelsea school song during commencement exercises in Chelsea, Vt., Friday, June 8, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Chelsea High School graduate Katya Sprague comforts her boyfriend, sophomore Charles Champney, after commencement on the Chelsea, Vt., village green Friday, June 8, 2018. Chelsea High School will close and students will be tuitioned out beginning in the fall of 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 09, 2018

Chelsea — The last-ever senior class to graduate from Chelsea High School walked across the stage on Friday evening, embodying the end of an era as it closes this year after educating students for more than a century. While the seven members of the Class of 2018 will head to college or go directly into the workforce, secondary-school students will be tuitioned out from Chelsea next year, after a merger with Tunbridge under the school consolidation law Act 46.

For senior Tucker Chapin, saying goodbye to Chelsea High School — not just now, but forever — made graduating an even more poignant occasion than it already would have been.

“It’s harder to leave knowing that there’s nothing to come back to,” she said in a phone conversation earlier this week. Chapin was one of several students in the class who’d attended Chelsea since kindergarten. “It’s definitely really emotional.”

The family and friends who gathered under the white tent on the town’s South Common also seemed to appreciate the import of the day.

When Principal Mark Blount asked alumni to stand prior to the ceremony, at least a dozen people got to their feet, sending an impressed murmur through the crowd of about 150.

Blount, who said Friday’s commencement was believed to be at least the 150th, asked attendees to consider and honor the “generations” of students who had peopled the building’s single hallway over the years.

Chapin’s classmate Emily Saunders, one of three salutatorians — there was no valedictorian — had also been at Chelsea since day one.

In her address, she recalled meeting “an energetic blonde girl named Tucker” on her first day of school. “Thirteen years later, we’re still friends.” Nothing can take that away, she said.

But just hours before the ceremony, Saunders expressed sadness for the younger classes who “have literally grown up with each other, and now have to go to schools away from each other,” she said.

But she also was excited to see what the students would make of their new learning environments, and the new opportunities that awaited them.

This idea — embracing the unfamiliar, no matter how daunting — was the crux of Saunders’ senior project.

“I decided to do 20 things that scared me or made me anxious,” she said. After 13 years in the same building, surrounded by the same faces, the project gave her a taste of what lay beyond her own comfort zone.

Some of these new tastes were literal, like that of sushi, which she’d never tried before. “I liked it,” she said. “It was tasty. I’ve been back since.”

She also traveled to New York — her first time in a big city — and rode on the subway. She went ziplining, and marveled at how the strange pain in her hands didn’t register until after the landing. She drove, or rather repeatedly stalled, a stick shift.

And the week before Christmas, she went to Burlington dressed as Santa Claus, and danced around to Christmas carols on Church Street.

“That one was really hard,” she said. “Putting myself out there is still a big fear for me, but I’m really working on that.”

Having since decided to attend the University of Vermont in the fall, with a planned major in athletic training, Saunders now wonders if some of the passers-by on Church Street will turn out to be her future classmates.

“I hope no one recognizes me,” she said with a laugh. “If it weren’t for the beard, I wouldn’t have done it.”

The themes of Saunders’ project — putting oneself out there, and welcoming new experiences — also carry over into graduation, which will usher in many such experiences for Chelsea’s last seniors.

But this adventurous spirit might also apply to all the students who won’t graduate from Chelsea Public School, who next year will have to navigate new hallways, relationships and adventures.

And as Rebecca Savidge — a 2005 Chelsea High School alumna who ultimately came back to Chelsea to work at the health clinic — reminded the students, the graduates would always be connected by the memories they share of the Chelsea school building.

“Remember what a unique school this has been,” she said. She urged them to get out and explore the world, try new things, meet new people.

“But don’t forget to come home.”

Until then, Saunders still has some items on her senior project list to check off. Next up: skydiving.

“I haven’t had time to get around to that one yet,” she said. “Also, it really scares me. But I still plan on doing it.”

EmmaJean Holley can be reached at ejholley@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

Chelsea High School Class of 2018

Kollin Bickelman, work; Tucker Chapin, Vermont Technical College; Ashlee Edson, Vermont Technical College; Nikole Garand, Community College of Vermont; Shawn King, work; Emily Saunders, University of Vermont; Katya Sprague, Full Sail University.