Otter Valley graduates cheer their accomplishments

BRANDON — Kirstyn Simonds was clear when asked how she felt about graduating from Otter Valley Union High School before the commencement ceremony this past Saturday morning.
“I don’t want to grow up,” she said with a nervous laugh.
Nevertheless, Simonds will attend Castleton State College in the fall with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher, a vocation sure to keep her young.
There were other nervous looks among the 92 graduates before they filed into the school gymnasium in Brandon to receive their diplomas in front of hundreds of family members, fellow students and faculty members.
But if anything could make them feel better, it was the message delivered by salutatorian Thomas Roberts. In his speech, Roberts singled out a number of his classmates by name and highlighting the accomplishments of so many. Roberts covered all the bases — Ryan Kelley’s 1,000 points scored in basketball, Morgan Whitney’s piano playing, Megan Patton’s acting in the school musical, the cheerleaders, the girls’ soccer team, the baseball team, three Eagle Scouts (Jim Winslow, Erik Werner and Jeff Corbett), and class President Alysen Smith, or in Roberts’ words, “the supreme ruler of the universe.”
Roberts’ address was the feel-good speech of the year, his observations often met with applause and cheers from the crowd.
Valedictorian Samantha Fox’s speech was more reflective, citing the changes she and her classmates have undergone when confronted with making choices about their futures. She said many of their decisions in middle school to become teachers, artists and police officers reflect what they’ve seen every day as they grew up.
“We saw the police officers of our towns protecting the civilians, and handing out some speeding tickets,” Fox said. “We saw the town filled with the artistic pigs, hearts and other artwork.”
Now, she said, many of her classmates have decided not to play it so safe and branch out, to go to college either here or out of state, to go to work, to travel.
“There are so many opportunities out there that we have not even discovered,” Fox said, “and so many ways for us to get out and make a name for ourselves.”
It’s hard to say whether Roberts’ speech summed up the mood in the OV gym on Saturday, or was the cause of it. Either way, the ceremony was a rousing success and the graduates left the ceremony a little lighter than when they arrived.
“Looking back, I am proud to say that I was a member of the class of 2013 and part of the wonderful group of people that make up my class,” Roberts said. “Most of all, I can say I was one of you, one of us. I can say we were and always will be unstoppable. In closing, I would like to congratulate the class of ’13 on a job … done.”

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