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MUHS seniors celebrate community at graduation

MIDDLEBURY — Jonah Lefkoe, president of Middlebury Union High School’s class of 2014, set the tone for the school’s graduation ceremony this past Saturday morning with his booming voice and infectious enthusiasm.
“In typical Vermont form,” he told his class, “we celebrate graduation on a dreary, overcast morning.”
But the weather couldn’t diminish Lefkoe’s enthusiasm, nor did it dampen the excitement of the other 129 members of his class, their families and the other guests gathered at the Memorial Sports Center.
Co-valedictorians Sonia Howlett and Maxon “Max” Moulton and salutatorian Nikolas “Nik” Shashok also shared reflections on their time at MUHS.
Moulton recalled the impact experiences at MUHS outside the classroom had had on him.
“The most valuable lessons I ever learned,” the Middlebury resident said, “didn’t come from books or classrooms, they came from all of you.”
Moulton stressed the importance of community.
“We’re going to remember the friends we made and all the meaningful interactions we had with each other, our teachers, and our coaches,” he said. “And — at least subconsciously — we’re going to remember all the lessons that these experiences taught us:  How it feels to come together as a class to accomplish something great.  The importance of helping others in need.  What it means to be a friend.”
Shashok, an accomplished trumpeter, compared the MUHS community to a musical composition.
“The best joy of music lies not in the listening, but in the creating, and our class of 2014 has made a beautiful melody over the past four years,” he said.
That was no small compliment, since he called music “humanity’s greatest gift.” And the East Middlebury resident defined music rather broadly.
“When we cheered on our peers in the student basketball game, that was music,” Shashok said. “When we ran through the halls with vuvuzelas and war cries, causing as much racket as possible, that was music! Nathalie Ingersoll’s laugh, Kiera Kirkaldy’s sneezes, Jonah Lefkoe’s speech-voice, and every hello in the halls is music.”
ForHowlett, excitement was mixed with nostalgia and just a touch of regret at leaving.
“No matter where we are going next year or in the lifetimes to come, we will never again be Middlebury Union High School students. For me, at least, that’s sad,” said Howlett, of Cornwall.
After polling the crowd to see how many of the friends and family had themselves graduated from MUHS in years past (there were many), Howlett said that many of her fellow classmates would continue to have a relationship with the school. And she speculated that a surprising number would be back for future commencement ceremonies.
“Even scarier, maybe we will be the proud parents of the class of 2040!” she said. “And, if you look far enough ahead, maybe someday we will sit our grandchildren, class of 2070, on our knees and mumble, ‘Ah, high school. Those were the days!’ and reminisce through our electronic dentures.”
She noted, “It seems like no graduate can really leave without dropping by to say hello again, and again, and again!”
Then Moulton grabbed a soprano saxophone, Shashok took up his trumpet, and the duo performed “Jazz Police” by Gordon Goodwin. Both Moulton and Shashok were in the MUHS concert and jazz bands, and their performance was met with enthusiastic applause.
Howlett will continue her education at Princeton University, while Lefkoe and Moulton will attend Harvard University and Shashok will study at Tufts University.
Graduates are bound for a diverse range of futures, from military service, to the workforce, to college. College-bound grads will be assisted financially by a number of scholarships presented Friday by the guidance department and Superintendent Peter Burrows.
After Burrows delivered a short address (he warned graduates that “the world requires tremendous resolve”), the MUHS Senior Vocal Ensemble performed “One Voice” by Ruth Moody, and Olivia Cacciatore recited Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Layers.”
Diplomas were then presented by Principal William Lawson, along with Burrows and school board Chair Leonard Barrett.
In all, 130 names were called as 130 seniors graduated. Tasseled caps were thrown, and the graduates, who had entered the Memorial Sports Center as high school students to “Pomp and Circumstance,” filed out to Holst’s “Jupiter” as graduates.
Among the advice given Saturday morning that may be rattling around in graduates’ heads, one quote from Thoreau’s “Walden,” delivered by Principal Lawson, stood out.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the lives you have imagined.”
See more on Middlebury graduation and catch up on what some past MUHS grads are up to in Section C of today’s edition. 
 
 
MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School salutatorian Nikolas Shashok, above left, and co-valedictorian Maxon Moulton perform a musical selection after giving their senior reflection speeches at Saturday’s graduation ceremony. One of the morning’s speakers was co-valedictorian Sonia Howlett, below.
Independent photos/Trent Campbell
 

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