Full of scholarships and awards
BY KATIE FUTTERMAN
WEST RUTLAND — Families, friends, and community members filled the stands of West Rutland School on June 10 to celebrate the 15 high school graduates. By the end of the nearly two-hour ceremony, each student’s name had been mentioned multiple times, whether through personal anecdotes from speaker Suzanne Brewster, the school nurse, or the countless awards and scholarships the class earned.
Before celebrating the class of 2022, however, the school presented 50-year golden diplomas to nine of West Rutland’s class of 1972, who were sitting in the audience, and were then permitted to celebrate with each other outside.
Salutatorian Kaley Duncan, a member of the National Honor Society, thanked her family, friends, and the West Rutland faculty and community for their support.
“We may have had our ups and downs, but I would not have wanted to do this with anyone else,” she said to her classmates.
She spoke about not knowing her true potential at the beginning of high school but eventually told herself, “everything was there in front of me.” She encouraged her classmates to have confidence as they leave high school and closed with a quote from Glenda from the Wizard of Oz that reads, “You always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
Valedictorian Serena Coombs, also a member of the National Honor Society, whose name became the most common word at the ceremony as she went on to win countless awards, spoke about the “tense” years that the students had endured in high school but also the value of getting to know oneself during the isolation of the past few years, or, as she called it, “hibernation.”
“Ranks, assets, income, hobbies, career, color, gender, political association – none of these categories can put you in a box, even if society wants you to be,” she said. “And if you know yourself, the prejudices produced by this same society cannot be forced onto you.”
She encouraged her classmates to follow their passions in life, whether it be in the arts instead of math or hobbies instead of social gatherings. Coombs told her classmates not to view life as a competition as she once had and to take breaks when needed.
“Your life is for you to live, and, inevitably, that also means it’s for you to make mistakes. It’s for you to experience joy, sadness, laughter, hope, love, and so many of those other ‘gross’ gushy emotions. Try your best to change the world, but focus on what matters to you.”
In Brewster’s address to the students, she said she had arrived at West Rutland School at the end of 2003, which was around when these students were born. She told the students how lucky they were to grow up in this community, as compared to her own high school, which lacked the opportunity for individual relationships.
“I still feel like a visitor, grateful to be here, but in your community, a community with a long, rich history of people who know everyone and this school…for a very…very… long time,” Brewster said.
This sense of community was exemplified when she asked the crowd to raise their hand if they had attended West Rutland high school, and a flood of hands overwhelmed the room.
Brewster emphasized the blessing and curse of a small community, where everyone is always looking out for how the students are doing and if they are sliding off the path. She then gave an individual superlative to each student, highlighting pandemic resilience, athletic accomplishments, and injury bragging rights.
But those were not the only awards the students got that day. Every student received some sort of award or scholarship, whether it went towards helping them start working, enter the military or go to college.
Before granting the students their diplomas, Principal James Slenker told the students, “if you want to change the world, start by making your bed,” a lesson not only from the U.S. Marines but his mother as well.
After receiving their diplomas and switching the tassel on their caps, the graduates closed the ceremony by presenting roses to their family members in the audience.