Songs, sport and smiles mark Mount Abe graduation

BRISTOL — Mount Abraham Union High School graduation never fails to deliver, whether it be inspirational speeches, novel entrances or rousing musical performances.
But Saturday’s commencement ceremonies included some bonus features, beginning with a prized prop that class of 2017 Salutatorian Genysis Berube proudly placed on the lectern at the intro to her speech: The Division II state championship softball trophy that she and her Eagle teammates had won just hours earlier.
The applause was thunderous.
And just as the Mount Abe softball team had not allowed adversity to divert its path to the title, Berube exhorted her 107 graduating classmates to keep the sights on their long-range goals.
“Some of our paths will wind and twist while others will climb giant hills and we will want to beg for a detour,” she said. “If I’ve learned anything in this short time that I’ve been alive it’s that detours are often more trouble than they are worth. You are looking for Main Street and instead you end up four towns over accidentally involved in a tractor parade.”
She also urged her colleagues not to settle for less than their full effort.
“We, as individuals, may not have the power to inspire the entire world to strive for success, but we do have the power to try and achieve it ourselves,” she said. “I challenge each of you, including myself, to do all that you can to reach your full potential. Live beyond what you are capable of. The future is in our hands, so let’s make the most of it.”
The second “bonus feature” of Saturday’s ceremony came courtesy of featured speaker James Eberhardy, a longtime Latin teacher at Mount Abe. Eberhardy acknowledged, as he took to the podium, that a majority of the class of 2017 had voted for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to serve as commencement speaker.
Sanders was unable to accept the invitation.
But in a classy move, Eberhardy had asked Sanders to provide a statement for him to read at the ceremony, which he delivered to an appreciative crowd.
Sanders, in his message, encouraged the new graduates to use their talents to improve their state and country.
“It’s no secret that you are leaving high school during a particularly difficult time in our nation’s history,” Sanders said through his statement. “But this is not the first time our country has faced a serious crisis. Our nation has had a long and extraordinary history, and time after time we have overcome enormous difficulties. In adversity, there is opportunity … I am confident that the education you’ve received here at Mount Abraham will prepare you to approach challenges — both big and small — with energy, creativity and dedication. So, as you take this next step in your lives, consider what kind of impact you will have in your communities, our state, our nation and the world. Find your voice about the issues that are important to you, and use it. Get involved.”
For his part, Eberhardy encouraged the students to learn about themselves, to embrace nostalgia as a joy and tool of self-reckoning.
“Know thyself,” he said. “In this context of considering the past, this means examining and discovering yourself again and again in your memories and creating a balanced nostalgia, a kind understanding of your own past so that if unexpected memory grips you through a song on the radio, a certain slant of light, the smoke of your own breath, the murmur of waves breaking on lone and level sands, you can pass the unlooked-for memory over and through, but not be overwhelmed in the present. You can wholly experience the nostalgia, the memory, but not suffer unnecessarily because it is you, known and familiar.”
Two different groups of musically gifted students gathered on stage separately during the ceremony to perform a song apiece. The singing group Sweet Transition, which normally performs a capella, on Saturday also featured graduating senior Sam Kuhns strumming guitar as they sang the Crosby, Stills and Nash classic “Teach Your Children.” A second group, dubbed “Ade and Friends,” performed “Postcards,” an original song by senior Adeline Crosthwait.
People who attended the graduation said both of the songs were memorable and moving moments — “Teach Your Children” for the obvious reasons, and Crosthwait’s song because it was bittersweet, perfectly fit to the occasion, and achingly beautiful. What made it even more moving for two of those in the audience was the fact that she kept it a secret from her parents, who didn’t know was going to be part of the ceremony until the singing began.
Valedictorian Ashley Turner spoke eloquently about how schools sports and the tight-knit Mount Abe community had helped prepare her for the challenges ahead. She recounted how the principles of teamwork and the benefits of camaraderie had translated to her academic life.
“The tight knit community of this school and the bonds between our five towns are unbreakable,” she said. “Around here everyone knows everyone and it’s never far to the next familiar face. We have experienced some incredible loss in recent years, of family members, friends, teachers, and fellow students. But the way that our community came together to support each other through these troubling times has inspired me. The love that runs through these hallways is truly remarkable.
“As we all go our separate ways,” Turner continued, “remember the people that raised and loved you through both the good times and the bad, and carry that sense of care with you wherever you end up. We have all been incredibly fortunate to have grown up here in the heart of Addison County. Let the strength of this community propel you toward your future.”

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