BENNINGTON -- At commencement services on Friday, Mount Anthony Union High School recognized two salutatorians for the second year in a row.
Graduate Robert Murphy took top honors as valedictorian of the class of 2013, followed by Griffin Thomas and Erin Winseman, who ended their high school careers with identical grade-point averages earning them each the title of salutatorian.
"I think it's a really strong class," Principal Sue Maguire said beforehand of the class comprised of 213 students with a wide variety of talents, some of which were on display Friday.
All three top graduates spoke during the evening's ceremony after remarks from Maguire, who told parting students that they were surrounded by people who helped them get to where they were (given weather concerns and space constraints, each student had up to four friends and family in the audience at the school's gymnasium, but the ceremony was also telecast live for overflow seated in the auditorium).
"You've finished high school, you've earned a diploma, but now you're going to have to figure it all out," Maguire said at graduation, "what the next part of your life will be about and how this will get you to your ultimate goals."
Maguire told graduates that all their decisions would count, even the small, "almost unnoticed" ones. "Whatever a person chooses now sets up what he or she must do later -- and there's always a later. So think about your choices carefully."
21st century student
Co-salutatorian Thomas said he consulted Google for help writing his speech and he thanked Wikipedia. Through high school, Thomas tallied surviving two raptures and a Mayan apocalypse. "Right now, seniors, we are mediocre, nothing special, but I can confidently say that, having spent way too much time with many of you ... every single one of us is capable of becoming great, of becoming special."
Co-salutatorian Winseman said she realized how quickly Mount Anthony became her home, and she called the memories we make and the people we meet "part of who we are."
"I think that these are some of the most important relationships you can have in life," she said. "Memories are our safe haven."
Murphy spoke of his difficulty in coming up with a non-clichéd valedictorian speech. "High school has been many things for me, but most of all a place of learning," he said. Murphy said upon leaving high school it would be up to graduates to distinguish themselves. Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail," he said. "Happiness will come from the way we live and the way we love."
The class of 2013 chose social studies teacher and administrator Michael Molloy as their faculty speaker. "In short, I've got three words for you. ... You are lucky," Molloy said.
"Now I don't mean let's head down to Foxwoods," he continued. "Rather, you are fortunate for so many things," most of which are taken for granted. "It's not so much what you have, but rather what you don't have that makes you lucky."
Molloy said a "photo bomb" was a lot better than a "carpet bomb." He said students were fortunate to live in the United States and Vermont and to have gone to and graduated from Mount Anthony.
"My advice to you: Let your Mount Anthony commencement truly be the beginning of the next chapter of your life."
Jeremiah Colbath earned the Senior Patriot Award for illustrating the true sense of a MAU student.
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