Photo Gallery | Arlington Memorial High school graduation

ARLINGTON — The 21 graduates of Arlington Memorial High School class of 2016 were celebrated at a commencement ceremony on Saturday.

Family, friends and faculty turned out en masse to wish the graduating "eagles" well.

Valedictorian Brandon Gamble spoke of the 13 years in school — from pre-K to grade 12 — as an increasingly complex puzzle.

As he ascended through the grade levels, the figurative "puzzle" grew from a six-sided cube to a six-by-six square Rubik's Cube puzzle. Gamble solved a Rubik's Cube puzzle on stage as he addressed his fellow classmates.


Speaking about his senior year, Gamble recalled he and two friends encountering a snapping turtle that was trying to cross the road. They pulled over and, avoiding cars whizzing by at highway speed, flipped the turtle into a box and carried it to the roadside.

"When we released him, he snapped at us," Gamble said. "He was rude and ungrateful because he failed to see we were trying to save him. Like us, when we fail to see the bigger picture — to see how each piece fits in the puzzle — we can be ungrateful."

Gamble thanked teachers for their patience, passion, dedication and guidance, for when students may have "snapped" at them, or complained about homework and tests.

Saturday's ceremony also included Gamble performing an original composition on the piano. Janessa Hoyt performed "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day, playing the guitar and vocals. The salutatorian was Colin Lawler. Serving as commencement speaker was John Werner. Werner worked at the school for 31 years, serving as a math and science teacher, administrator, the athletic director, and varsity coach for the boys soccer team before retiring in 2004. He went on to be the head coach for mens soccer at Castleton University before he retired in 2014.

Graduates of Arlington Memorial High School’s class of 2016 turn their tassles during commencement excerises on Saturday.
Graduates of Arlington Memorial High School's class of 2016 turn their tassles during commencement excerises on Saturday. (Holly Pelczynski Bennington Banner)

Werner spoke about key qualities he hoped graduates would aspire to, represented by the acronym LINAO — leadership, inspiration, knowledge (he quipped that he hoped the English department would grant him "poetic license" and allow use of a silent letter K), attitude and opportunity.

Speaking about role models, Werner, a 1971 graduate of Oneonta State College, said his role model continues to be his college soccer coach. Anytime he makes a decision, he can still hear his advice of "do the right thing."

Werner encouraged graduates to, whatever their next steps in life will be, "learn how to learn" — and if they're college-bound, then "for God's sake, go to class" — and to maintain a positive attitude.

"Whether you're heading to college, the military, or the job force, be enthusiastic," he said. "Make yourself indispensable by working hard, smiling and always giving you best effort."

Their attitude can help them when facing adversity — they can view obstacles in life as problems or opportunities, he said.

He spoke of preparing a team for an important game — the coach doesn't want players fearful or complacent. Rather, a coach wants his team to be between anxious and confident.

When facing new opportunities, never be afraid of being a little anxious, he told graduates.

"Unless you try to do something beyond what you already mastered, you will never grow," Werner said.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979