White River Valley High School graduates celebrate opportunities

By NICOLA SMITH

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 06-17-2024 11:24 AM

SOUTH ROYALTON — Under a brilliant blue sky and cool temperatures, Anna Stratton, who gave the salutatory address at the White River Valley High School graduation Saturday on South Royalton green, urged her classmates to live in the present and not dwell on the past. “Living in the moment is the only way to live life to the fullest,” Stratton told the graduating class of 46.

Citing the bestselling author and New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, who popularized the 80-20 rule — roughly 80% of the work is done by 20% of those participating — Stratton urged her classmates to continue their efforts in life as part of that 20%.

Echoing Stratton’s comments, Valedictorian Anita Miller reminded her peers to “act with intention and purpose” and to remember that there is not always as much time in life as they think there is.

At 10 a.m., the White River Valley High School class of 2024 paraded into a tent erected on South Royalton green, accompanied by the school band playing Sir Edward Elgar’s solemn “Pomp and Circumstance” march and were played out an hour later to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate.”

Senior Tanner Marie Drury welcomed the students and their families and guests, saying that the academic year, which saw a return to normal after the ebbing of the COVID-19 pandemic, had been filled with dances, a spring fling, a prom and winter and spring carnivals.

The senior class, said high school principal Jeff Thomas, had also participated in a class trip to New York City, which included visits to the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial and the Broadway musical “The Outsiders,” based on S.E. Hinton’s classic novel of adolescence.

Both Thomas and honorary speaker Loretta Stalnaker, who served in the Vermont National Guard for 21 years and is the current chief of the Royalton Police Department, praised the class’s spirit and its resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its iterations of in-person and hybrid teaching and restrictions on the kinds of after-school programs and sports that add to the high school experience.

To the graduating class, after three years of extraordinary challenges, Stalnaker said this was the year when “entering the building you stood a little taller.” They were now eager to head off to college, to vocational school, the military or the workforce, part of a generation of students with incredible technological prowess.

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“You are part of a global generation where opportunities can take you to the farthest reaches of the globe,” Stalnaker said. The graduates are “entering a world that desperately needs you,” she added.

“Every once in a while life will hand you a wrenching choice,” she said, adding that such dilemmas will put them in the position of having to make “the brave choice, the difficult choice.”

Despite the inevitable challenges waiting, the important things, Stalnaker said, are to go into the world with enthusiasm, and to remember that “true friendship is a treasure.”

She signed off by saying, “Go, Wildcats.”

Principal Thomas told the assembled guests that this academic year there had been an impressive $56,000 available in local and state scholarship money for the senior class, and when renewing scholarships were included, the total was $170,000. Scholarships were awarded for academic achievement, community engagement and interest in pursuing careers in forestry, environmental work, land conservation and criminal justice, among others.

Before the presentation of the diplomas, senior Samuel Antwi sang the old Sinatra standard “My Way,” for which he received loud applause.

Nicola Smith can be reached at mail@nicolasmith.org.

White River Valley High School Class of 2024

Kway Antwi; Montana M. Aremburg; Isabella Ashley; Finnigan K. Bailey; Kellan Mark Ballou; Benjamin Bean; Amara Calhum-Flowers; Carter J. Colson; Zachary W. Cook; Cory Darling-Salls; Logan Curt DeCoteau; Tanner Marie Drury; Lillian Dumont; Quinn Ensminger; Joseph Robert Ferris; Alysha Mae Gadwah; Chedva Gordon; Jacob C. Gray; Tattin Griffin; Hayleigh Evelyn Howe; Alexander Kennison; Makenzie Ann Kill; Madacin Emma Kill; Sadie Ruth Kinsley; Calvin LaGrange; Reilly Laware; Joshua Ray Madden; Effrosini Makris; Bryce Merrill; Anita K. Miller; Aliyah Paige Nelson; Clover L. Radicioni; Abigail Tracy-Don Rainville; Jackson Rule; Dylan S. Slack; Rowan Smith; Anna Marie Stratton; Joseph Trenton Striker; Maxwell Sulham; Nesmith J. Sulham; Christopher Marshall Emery Thibodeau-Grady; Austin James Wheeler; Braden Walter White; Sauntie White; Noah Zitterkopf; Kyle Murray-Smith; and Taylor Dakin.