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Oxbow Seniors Learned to Share a Solid Bond

  • Oxbow High School classmates Eliza Goodell, left, and Isabella Giesing share a moment before the start of commencement in Bradford, Vt., on June 15, 2018. Goodell gave the valedictory speech. (Rick Russell photograph)

  • William Moreno walks up to get his diploma at Oxbow High School's graduation on June 15, 2018 in Bradford, Vt. (Rick Russell photograph)

  • Samantha Smith, Kayla Slie and Shirley Hayward share a laugh as they walk in line bound for the gym at Oxbow High School's graduation held on June 15, 2018, in Bradford, Vt. (Rick Russell photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 6/16/2018 12:08:33 AM
Modified: 6/18/2018 6:26:53 PM

Bradford, Vt. — Oxbow High School’s senior week culminated in a hot, jubilant commencement ceremony on Friday night in the school gym. It was the 47th in the school’s history.

But for valedictorian Eliza Goodell, it was a Tuesday trip to Echo Lake, in the White Mountains, that exemplified the class’s character.

“People just sort of feel like everyone in the group is their friend and someone they can interact with,” she said in an interview earlier this week. While students may have their preferred social circle, she said, “those aren’t rigid definitions.”

The beach day followed a trip to a Six Flags amusement park on Monday, two final opportunities for the students to bond before going their separate ways: to college, work or the military.

On Friday night, Principal Jean Wheeler honored the 65-member graduating class, even acknowledging three students — Kimberly Swasey and Carolyn and Emily Walters — unable to attend the ceremony.

“Seniors,” she began, “tonight you walked into the gymnasium as seniors, and will leave as alumni.”

Wheeler then quoted a 2003 commencement address by computer entrepreneur Michael Dell: “As you start your journey, the first thing you should do is throw away that store-bought map and begin to draw your own.”

She emphasized that any number of paths can lead to one’s goals.

English teacher Benjamin Arendsee spoke next, and echoed Wheeler’s comments about the various avenues to success.

“You asked the wrong guy entirely to give this speech,” he said, noting he had dropped out of high school, community college and a four-year college program by age 27.

“There is no right order in which to do things,” he said.

Arendsee also gave shout-outs to the parents of the graduating class and to his colleagues in the faculty. In thanking the parents for entrusting their children to the public school system, he said, “I understand how fraught with hope and anxiety this process can be.” To his fellow teachers, he said, “Thank you for coming back day after day to do your best.”

Next came Goodell’s speech, in which the Oberlin College-bound senior reflected on the nearly 7,000 hours she figured she’d spent at Oxbow since beginning at the school in seventh grade.

“As we near the very last hour of that time spent together, I have a question for you,” she said to her classmates. “What have you gained?”

She went on to urge her peers to live boldly and fearlessly, to make the most of life’s opportunities, rather than succumb to a mindless routine.

In an interview on Thursday, Goodell described the class as a “big, giant family.”

“There’s a lot of people with really cool and outgoing personalities and people who are not really at all afraid to be themselves,” she said, “and that I think has a pretty strong effect on the rest of the class.”

As Wheeler awarded diplomas on Friday night, some students drew particularly loud reactions. The announcing of Nicole Tuttle’s name prompted a deafening chorus of air horns from the gym’s bleachers. Jasmine Rudin had quite the cheering section, too. And Tysen Spooner had to make sure he was getting the real thing, so he asked Wheeler whether his diploma had been signed.

After Wheeler handed out the final diploma, the crowd began to stand in anticipation. The class marshals directed the seniors to pose for a photo, and then came a moment of catharsis, as the students hurled their mortarboards into the air.

The ceremony closed to the strains of Phil Collins’ On My Way: “Tell everybody I’m on my way, new friends and new places to see, with blue skies ahead.”

Gabe Brison-Trezise can be reached

Oxbow Class of 2018

Jared Anaya; Alyssa Armitage, Curry College; Josh Batchelder; Hunter Benoit, Universal Technical Institute; Adrianna Blair, River Valley Community College; Mason Brammell, Vermont Technical College; Tessa Brayton, work; Jade Butler; Emily Carson, Bournemouth University; Noah, Cassidy; Maizey Chase; Leann Chen; Jessica Daigle, University of Vermont; Braley Dorr; Dylan Downing, U.S. Air Force; Jonathan Drake, VTC; Scott Dunn; Kodi Dyke; Ben Emerson, Castleton University; Dayna Fisk, Community College of Vermont; Zachery Fogg, UVM; Sullivan French, Castleton University; Hannah Giesing, Colby Sawyer; Isabella Giesing, University of Massachusetts Lowell; Elizabeth Goodell, Oberlin College; Danielle Gordon, Clarkson University; Gabriel Gray, U.S. Army or National Guard; Shirley Hayward, RVCC; Kenny Hazlett, Northern Vermont University Lyndon; Faith Hilder, Johnson & Wales; Lincoln Ilsley, Castleton University; Trevor Kingsbury; Yvonne LeMere, White Mountains Community College; Austen McAllister, NVU Lyndon; Hannah McAllister, NVU Lyndon; Ian McKnelly, Tallahassee Community College/Florida State; Emily Moore; William Moreno; Spenser Penny; Breanna Robinson, Saint Michael’s College; Jasmine Roden; Isaiah Shumway; Lizzie Sicely; Melanie Sidney, Endicott College; Erika Slicer, RVCC; Kayla Slie, NVU Lyndon; Daniel Smith; Jillian Smith, Castleton University; Samantha Smith, CCV; Tysen Spooner, Army/National Guard; Justin Stockman; Hailey Sumner, WMCC; Kyle Sweet, Army/National Guard; Hunter Thompson; Taylor Thurston, New England School of Hair Design; Matthew Towle, Southern New Hampshire University; Nicole Tuttle; Carolyn Walters; Robert Welch; Bailee Wheeler, Empire Beauty School; Breanna Williams.

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