By RUSSELL JONES
The 23 seniors of West Rutland’s 2019 graduating class sat upon a stage decked out in school colors in front of a gym packed with parents and well-wishers on Friday, June 7. Most of these students have known each other their entire lives and have attended school in the same building from kindergarten through high school.
Senior Kasey Serrani gave the salutatorian speech where she humbly praised the two students who finished ahead of her.
“I can proudly say that I enjoy my truly inspiring class that holds two people who knocked me down to third,” she said.
For the first time in the history of the school, West Rutland boasted two valedictorians, Eric Maxham and Phillip Wedin. The two gave a dual speech where they stood together at the podium and recounted several stories from their school lives going back to the first grade.
Maxham recalled a kickball game where he was ‘definitely safe’ at home and Wedin described what it felt like to be freshmen.
“I thought I was on top of the world,” he said. “Little did I know just how much work lay ahead of me. I was surprised by how often I went to my teachers for help.”
Wedin went on to tell the audience of the difficulty of the college-level courses the two took. Maxham described the pain of a hard loss they suffered in the soccer state final.
“Don’t get me wrong, I wish we could have won that game,” Maxham said. “But we learned something from it, too. We learned that you will not succeed in everything you attempt in life.”
The commencement speaker was former West Rutland teacher Jennifer Jackson. Jackson spoke to the class about her path in life.
“My first teaching job was here at Westside,” Jackson said.
She told the assembled crowd how she had her whole life planned out when she was five years old; from what her career would be to the school she would attend to get there.
I was going to be a veterinarian,” she said. “After my first year of classes, I realized that I didn’t enjoy it.”
Jackson went on to go to the Peace Corps after college and ended up teaching environmental science classes in Armenia before making her way back to Vermont.
“A friend told me I should try to become a school teacher,” the former science teacher said. She recalled the times she laughed with the students and times she cried with them as well.
“So that’s what I wish for all of you,” Jackson said as she quoted Conan O’Brien’s commencement speech to Harvard grads in 2000, “the bad, as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember, that the story is never over.”
She reminded the students to save room for diverging from the path they had planned and finally told them, “I’m thankful that 5-year-old me was wrong with the dream I had for my life. If she had been correct all those years ago, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of getting to know each of you.”