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MUHS student leaders urge peers to connect, excell

MIDDLEBURY — Spirits were high on Saturday morning as the Middlebury Union High School class of 2013 gathered together at the Memorial Sports Center to graduate. The commencement ceremony, which featured a mix of tradition and originality, started with droning bagpipes, played by senior Duncan Mathewson, leading the teachers to their seats. Afterward the graduating class was called in by Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” played by the MUHS band.
The two class members with the highest cumulative grade point averages, Valedictorian David Burt and Salutatorian Nora McLaughlin, addressed their class with two encouraging and heartfelt speeches.
Burt, who will attend Williams College in the fall, described his class as leaders, and people who, although in a digital age surrounded by social media, still retain a human connection to each other and those around them.
“Despite whatever virtual reality we have, we still recognize our connection to the greater, human reality,” Burt said. “I feel confident we will prove those who doubt our ability to having meaningful social interactions wrong, with a genuine smile and friendly wave.”
McLaughlin, who plans to enroll at Princeton University in the fall, gave a speech describing the top 10 reasons why her class is ready to leave MUHS. Some were lighthearted, addressing early morning sports practice and losing winter carnival to the freshman class. However, her number-one reason was about creativity, change and the desire to move on and accomplish something.
“High school was a time to follow a ‘normal’ course, but there is no such thing as normal or usual anymore,” McLaughlin said. “We now have the opportunity to find happiness and make a difference through originality, no matter our paths.”
The graduation ceremony was special not only for the teenagers who populated most of the class of 2013. One special graduate was 81-year-old Jane McCormick Bourgeault, who received an honorary diploma. Bourgeault attended Middlebury High School until she was unable to continue after her junior year in 1949 due to financial reasons. As she received her diploma, Bourgeault received a standing ovation from everybody attending the graduation.
Retiring superintendent Gail B. Conley then addressed the class, using bus driving as a metaphor.
“You have to be planning to be a bus driver,” Conley said. He encouraged the class to be bus drivers, to be leaders of whatever they do. But he also reminded them that if they don’t like where they are, they also have the option to get off the bus and find a new one.
He ended his speech with a simple rule for life: You can drive the bus, ride the bus, or get off the bus.
“Lead, follow, or get out of the way,” he said.
The class of 2013 then lined up and received their diplomas, tossed their caps, and proudly exited the arena to the MUHS band playing “Jupiter” by Gustav Holst and cheers from family and friends, and moved forward to whatever their next endeavor might be.

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