MIDDLEBURY — The rain came steadily down but spirits were consistently high as friends and relatives of the 140 Middlebury Union High School graduates packed the Memorial Sports Center on Saturday to watch the MUHS class of 2011 receive their diplomas.
Six members of the graduating class shared the honors for having the top grades — two valedictorians and four salutatorians. Each was given the chance to address the crowd.
'Tis the season (for graduation)
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Co-valedictorians James Cobb and Christine Artim spoke first.
Cobb reflected on his journey through high school, from “the bottom of the food chain” in freshman year to the cap and gown marking the end of senior year. He used his evolving musical tastes to illustrate how he became more confident with the myriad changes that he went through in those four years, and urged himself and his peers to embrace that change in all aspects of life after graduation.
“I look around and see 140 different faces, hiding 140 different hearts,” said Cobb, who will attend Davidson College in the fall. “I challenge us all to create and follow our own paths.”
Artim also took the opportunity to reflect on her transformation during her time at MUHS. Recalling her meek persona in ninth grade, Artim credited her decision to join the track team in her junior year for helping her break out of her shell.
“I became one of those crazy teenagers I always balked at as a child — and it felt great,” said Artim, remembering her wild enthusiasm while cheering her cross-country teammates in 40-degree weather, letters painted on their stomachs. Artim encouraged her classmates to make bold decisions and never shy away from life.
Artim will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall.
The four salutatorians — Jarrod Ashley, Liz Kelley, Jane McCabe and Mariko Totten — delivered a speech together, each reading one or two paragraphs that carried personal reflections while maintaining an overarching theme. The message, fittingly, was that “brevity is the soul of wit” — a quote from William Shakespeare.
Totten, who will attend the University of Vermont in the fall, began the speech by reflecting that her time at MUHS had taught her that there is a time to speak and a time to be quiet — and the difference between “intellectual questioning and talking back.”
McCabe, bound for Middlebury College, shared moments from her athletic career at MUHS — on the tennis court and soccer field — that helped her learn when it’s better to remain silent, holding anger and aggravation inside, than to let that frustration boil over into verbal attacks on the opposing team or game officials. The ability to do so, she said, allows one to play on, and play better, with “a furious composure.”
Ashley reflected on his quiet demeanor in classes or athletic competitions, but noted that he has always raised his voice in choral performances.
“While I was singing, I would often remember a motivational quote, said to me many times: ‘Sing louder,’” said Ashley, who joined the MUHS vocal ensemble later in the ceremony to perform “The Poet Sings” led by choral director Liz Lebeau.
Ashley will attend Cornell University in the fall.
Kelley, headed to Boston University, spoke about her struggles with the length requirements of assignment — not in meeting the minimum requirement, but rather coming in under the maximum limit. Her teachers, she said, were instrumental in helping her realize the importance of being concise.
“I’m just so intent on conveying my point that I say the same thing eight different ways,” said Kelley, who credits her history and English teachers with showing her that more is not necessarily better.
Principal Bill Lawson and Superintendent Lee Sease addressed the graduates, who first greeted their principal with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.
“Nothing like starting off by being reminded how old you are,” said Lawson, whose daughter Sarah was among those graduating.
Lawson invoked the words of Gandhi to urge the graduates to focus their energy on service in the next chapter of their lives.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” said Lawson, reciting the words of the non-violent Indian political leader. He reported that approximately half of the graduates have received awards for community service in their time at MUHS.
Sease, who is serving in his final year as Addison Central superintendent, also had a message for the class of 2011. He advised the graduates to fight the natural human instinct to think only of themselves, and to have faith that they are part of something bigger. He urged them to approach decisions in their adult life with care and concern for the common good, rather than pure self-interest.
“Class of 2011 — climb high, reach far, Godspeed,” concluded Sease.
Lawson announced the departmental award winners and honorable mentions, and guidance counselor Mark Thuma handed out community awards and scholarships, before the graduates took the stage, one by one, to receive their diplomas. The band broke into Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter” as the class of 2011 tossed their caps in the air, recessed from the arena, and began the next chapter in their lives.
Reporter Ian Trombulak can be reached at [email protected]