BRANDON — Otter Valley Union High School Valedictorian Will Pearl’s message to his fellow classmates at graduation last Saturday in its simplest form was this: They matter.
“What I ask of you … is that you recognize your own importance in this web of interconnectedness that is our modern world,” he said before a packed gymnasium. “I ask that you do not be so foolish as to think that your actions have no impact on the unhalting wheel of progress.”
'Tis the season (for graduation)
Read about the other Addison County high school graduations!
Pearl was one of 99 graduates in the class of 2011, a class of talented students, athletes and doers. Salutatorian Avery Howland described them well, citing the athletic accomplishments of All-American basketball player Kristy Pinkham and three-time state wrestling champ George Mitchell. She continued:
“We have twins, we have triplets, we have Rob Kelly” — to a chorus of cheers — “the students member of the Vermont State School board … We have Eagle Scouts, firefighters, debaters, and so much more.”
Howland also mentioned the loss of her Lothrop Elementary classmate Sarah Maxfield, who died of cancer in the sixth grade. The Maxfield family was in attendance at Saturday’s graduation.
In an impressive display of academic sportsmanship, Howland also recognized classmate Nina Gage from the podium.
“Two-one hundredths of a point is the difference between my standing here giving this speech and Nina Gage giving it,” Howland said. “Congratulations on all your accomplishments, Nina.”
Howland used the dandelion as a metaphor for the class, saying that although it’s considered a nuisance, it’s also resilient and possesses medicinal and nutritional properties.
“It is a plant that can adapt to its surroundings,” she said. “It has the stability of a deep tap root … like our class, it is eclectic and diverse.”
Pearl in his speech also recognized the diversity of the class, saying that it doesn’t matter if a student goes on to medical school or never sets foot in an academic institution again.
“I can tell you with absolute positivity that you can change the way you live your life to change our world, and encourage others to do the same,” he said earnestly. “This is your times, class of 2011; use it to your full potential.”