OV grads asked to pause and reflect

BRANDON — Close to 100 young women and men and their families and friends could not have been faulted for being in a bit of a hurry this past Saturday morning to get out of the Otter Valley Union High School gym.
The 95 who were receiving their diplomas that day, 24 of whom were National Honor Society members, surely wanted to move on to the next stage of their lives.
But Jonna Keith, salutatorian for the class of 2016 who will attend Middlebury College, urged her fellow classmates to pause and reflect on their high school experience and the connections made there, in spite of the sometimes-difficult perils of adolescence.
“Stop and take a moment to experience your ‘now,’” she said. “Look at the faces of the people who have sat next to you in class for the past six years … Pause for a moment and think of the many teachers who have informed your thinking. Gaze at the four, silent steady walls surrounding you.
“There were days these walls felt like a prison, but they have been our home.”
Looking back on their years at Otter Valley will undoubtedly hold many fond memories. But most of those graduating also have some pretty solid plans going forward.
Three grads are going into the U.S. Marine Corps, and one has signed up for services in the National Guard. Of those who have shared their college plans, 26 are going to colleges and universities in Vermont and 27 going out of state. Two members of the class of 2016 are going to continue their education at the Vermont Police Academy.
Valedictorian Emma Cijka, who is headed to Cornell University, in her speech on Saturday did some looking back.
“I’ll admit that I’m not known for having an overwhelmingly positive outlook, but I lack justification for my negativity,” she said.
But then she was uncharacteristically optimistic as she emphasized community service and looked at how what she and her classmates learned will affect the future.
“With service comes the opportunity to spread goodness, hope and joy to others; it is undoubtedly the first step to causing visible change in the world.”
And then there were plenty of handshakes and diplomas plus a big helping of cheers from the audience, and the Otter Valley Union High School class of 2016 strode out of the gym and into the future.

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