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Woodstock grad works to culinary career

  • Natalie Strayton smiles as Woodstock Union High School seniors walk into commencement exercises. The ceremony took place outdoors behind the school on Friday evening. (Photo by Ben DeFlorio)

  • Matt Ennis and his girlfriend Tierney Dugan hold hands while Woodstock Union High School seniors gathered in the gym to get ready for commencement exercises. The ceremony took place outdoors behind the school on Friday evening. (Photo by Ben DeFlorio)

  • Woodstock Union High School seniors were given high fives by Spanish teacher Keri Bristow before heading out to commencement exercises. Bristow is retiring after 39 years of teaching. The ceremony took place outdoors behind the school on Friday evening. (Photo by Ben DeFlorio)

  • Woodstock Union High School seniors walk into graduation ceremonies that took place behind the school on Friday evening. (Photo by Ben DeFlorio)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/14/2019 9:56:11 PM
Modified: 6/14/2019 9:55:57 PM

WOODSTOCK — For Natalie Strayton, helping others, contributing to her community and crafting her culinary skills to give her a leg up in the aggressive career field she is about to enter are all important.

The 18-year-old Barnard resident tutored underclassmen and held paid and unpaid positions at Upper Valley restaurants, cafes, stores and beyond while juggling classes at Woodstock Union High School over the past four years.

And this summer, Strayton intends to continue those efforts before heading to New York’s Culinary Institute of America in the fall to further a passion she has had since she was old enough to hold a spoon.

The aspiring baker and pastry artist will settle into the kitchen at Barnard’s Twin Farms, a place she has interned in the past.

“I’ve just always loved to cook and bake. I loved helping make cookies and pancakes — all things from scratch,” said Strayton, who makes a menu for her family each week and enjoys doing all of the cooking at home.

Strayton was one of 76 students to move their tassels to the left during the annual commencement ceremony, held outdoors behind Woodstock Union Middle and High School, on Friday night.

The graduating class had two salutatorians.

Co-salutatorian Madeline Hiller told her fellow graduates that they will come to “forks in the trail” and be presented with “detours.” When they are, they should follow their “moral compass,” she said.

“Not everyone’s compasses will align,” but Hiller urged her classmates to “practice open mindedness.”

She encouraged them to not forget where they came from: small-town Vermont, home to “real” maple syrup.

Co-salutatorian Anna Hepler told her class to “live in the small moments” and “call out the bullies.”

“Hold the door a second longer,” she said. Focus on the “small acts.”

“(They) can have a great impact on the recipient,” Hepler said.

She added: “Advocate for yourself and fellow human beings.”

Valedictorian Morgan Biele, who has a love for neuroscience, spoke of the inter-workings of the brain and related them back to her fellow classmates.

“This school has become a rather concrete part of our brains,” Biele said. “This school is embedded in what we know and this circuit will always be an integral part of who we are.”

She encouraged the graduates to “please, always use your brains.”

The school’s annual “Speakchorus,” which featured five singers who intoned a few words about each graduate, drew laughs from the audience, many of whom wore winter coats in what felt like an early return to fall.

This year’s Speakchorus was performed by Zachary Cannon, Julia Kowalski, Theodore Krawczyk, Alivia Salls and Hepler.

Barbara MacMaster: “Wise beyond her years.”

Terrance Stone: “A car guy.”

Claire Coates: “A ray of sunshine.”

Logan Crane: “Loves plants.”

Adare O’Neill: “...those amazing sneakers!”

Senior class staff advisors Margaret Boylan and Michelle Fountain remarked on the senior class’s gift, which they said illustrates the group being “forward thinkers.” The class is slated to place $1,000 into a fund that hopefully one day, “in the not too distant future,” will go toward building a new “modern, energy efficient” school.

The advisors called the graduates “a collection of unique individuals,” who will “never be accused of being too quiet.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at or 603-727-3248.

Woodstock Union High Class of 2019

Evan Latimer Alsup; Angelina Nichole Amadeo; Charles Anthony Amato, University of Kansas; Jedediah John Astbury, Maine Maritime Academy; Ora James Astbury, University of New Hampshire; Kathryn Battle, Transitions, Mayfield, N.Y., Hudson Valley Community College; Hayley Lei Bean, Vermont Technical College; Rhiannon Sage Begin, Champlain College; Morgan Bertholdt; Mackenzie West Biele, Savannah College of Art & Design; Morgan Allen Biele, Duke University; Bridgit Holly Black; Benjamin Gile Blanchard, Navy; Peter Mills Borden, University of Maine; Toby Jacob Borzekowski, Macalester College; Khara Emily Brettell, Union College; Zachary Race Cannon, University of Vermont; Matthew George Carlson; Savannah Carr; Dana Castro, community college; Hayden Chase; Ely M. Chynoweth, Vermont Technical College; Chiron Xavier Cilia Denk, Santa Rosa Junior College; Claire Elizabeth Coates, Skidmore College; Hartley Coates; Logan Koletan Crane; William Kenneth Crompton, Miami University; Maximilian W Dodson, University of Vermont; Joshua Duefield; Tierney Julia Dugan, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Isaac Thomas Emery, University of Vermont; Matthew James Ennis, University of Vermont; Matthew Ryan Frizzell; Kyle Andrew Gordon-Wylie; Adrianna Lynn Gray, Endicott College; Anthony J Hendrick; Anna Grace Hepler, Carleton College; Cassie Hill; Wade Joseph Hirschbuhl; Madeline Elizabeth Hiller, Middlebury College; Linea Kay, California State University, Long Beach; Julia J Kowalski, Savannah College of Art & Design; Theodore Mott Krawczyk, University of Vermont; Barbara Kate MacMaster, University of Vermont; Benjamin G Marsicovetere; Gabriel Robert Marsicovetere, Keene State University; Quinn Earl Martin; Jacob Turner Maxham, University of Vermont; Riley S McFarland; Yeabsira Miles, Castleton University; Claudia Maxine Mills, University of Exeter, England; Emilio Montano, University of Alabama; Dharma Ann Neil, Simmons University; Chloe Conklin Noble, Lehigh University; Harrison Lee Nunes; Adare O’Neill, Northern Vermont University — Johnson; Ava Pawelcyzk, Norwich University; Alec Marc Peyton; Lucas Myle Marceau Piconi, Union College; Sidney Kathleen Pilot, Simmons University; Clarissa Rose Pratt, cosmetology school; Samuel Min Purvis, Bard College; Alex Reed, Northern Vermont University — Johnson; Timothy Lee Rogers, Norwich University; Alivia Jane Salls, Drew University; Katherine Irene Sawyer, Norwich University; Micah North Schlabach, Emmanuel College; Gina Sorrentino, University of New Hampshire; Terrance James Stone; Natalie Eliza Strayton, the Culinary Institute of America; Molly Elizabeth Thompson, Saint Michael’s College; Alexandra Kay Tsouknakis, American College of Greece; Lily Ruth Walker Money, Union College; Caden Taylor White, Maine Maritime Academy; and Oliver Eliot Wilson, Skidmore College.

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