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DORSET — With just 19 graduating seniors, Long Trail School’s commencement last Friday offered an opportunity for students to tell their own personal stories of growth and gratitude.

Student council co-president and graduating senior Mackenzie Smith described the Class of 2022 as being enriched by diverse independent and strong personalities who thrived from each other’s presence and pushed each other to be their truest selves.

“We may be small, but we are mighty,” she said.

Interim Head of School Chuck Scranton said he got to know the seniors in his short time at Long Trail, and that he was glad for it.

“They’re thoughtful. They’re kind. They’re considerate. They’re caring. They’re natural leaders. [They have] boundless school spirit and contagious enthusiasm. They’re wonderful role models for younger students, and they’re good friends,” Scranton said. “I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss my time here. And I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”

Three members of the graduating class of 19 were not able to attend, but their presence was still felt.

Noel Schlageter, who could not attend due to a case of COVID-19, attended virtually over Zoom and was able to deliver his remarks following some technical difficulties.

With his screen projected on the ceiling of the event tent where the ceremony took place, Schlageter outlined his personal journey through the school year – one in which he worked through struggles to find happiness and meaning – and thanked his teachers and classmates for helping him throughout the year.

“Back then, and in the years prior, I’d become trapped within the turmoil of my own mind, unable to listen to and live through my body,” Schlageter said. “The pleasure of a walk in the woods, the sun on my skin or a good night’s rest was lost on me, and I lived to prepare for my future.

“But as I enter this future, I now find myself obsessed with this current moment, and the euphoria and meaning of it all,” he said. “I could not properly express in words this beauty I now see in life, nor the thanks I owe to this community for showing it to me.”

Fellow graduates Thomasz Koc and Patryk Lukaszewski had to return to their native Poland before commencement, and both received their diplomas in front of the student body before flying home.

The graduates, clad in red caps and gowns, honored school tradition by each speaking briefly on their time at Long Trail, and how they evolved and grew for what lies ahead. Many reflected on the unique challenges presented by the COVID 19 pandemic – meeting pandemic protocols, dealing with distance learning, and growing through their own personal challenges.

Anna Matthewson described how she went from being a theater-obsessed seventh grader to a varsity athlete, grateful for the friends she made on the basketball team. Julia Worland, who was once sure she would become a veterinarian, reflected on realizing she was meant to follow a different path – even though she doesn’t know exactly what that will be. And Laura Rosenthal, who was once convinced her future lay in the sciences, realized that her true passion was in visual art.

Ian Philip recounted that he’d changed his mind about the future several times – from blacksmith to engineer to marine biologist to mechanic.

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“While I may not know exactly what my next few years will look like, I do know that because of the people here today I will succeed in my next endeavor,” he said.

“My world here at Long Trail has allowed me to grow from a very shy and timid 12-year-old to a much more confident and outgoing person,” Grace Porter said. “Because of this growth, I joined my town rescue squad. And while getting vomited on by a COVID patient or helping an old woman get out of the bathtub at three in the morning might not be my favorite way to spend my time, these experiences have only strengthened my love and excitement for medicine.”

“I was a lost 17 year old who did not know what he wanted to do but had a crazy idea of getting into college in America in the middle of a global pandemic,” said Tamir Anafin, one of two graduates from Kazakhstan. “But Long Trail gave me more than just academic skills.”

Annual awards presented at the ceremony included the David and Rene Wilson Award, named in honor of the school’s founders, to Grace Porter; the West-Forbes Spirit Award, to Mackenzie Smith; and the Dorothy Pierce Faculty Award, to Julia Craig.

Board of Trustees chair Amy Thebault also honored longtime faculty member and development director Courtney Callo, who left the school during the year to pursue a business opportunity.

“Courtney made everyone feel valued. She modeled generosity, community and philanthropy at its definition,” Thebault said. “It’s clear Courtney has played an invaluable role here and helped shape the school into what it is today.”

The ceremony also honored Scranton, who came out of retirement for a second time to lead the school after former head Seth Linfield resigned. He was presented with the school’s annual Citizen of the Year award,

“In his short tenure here on campus, he has made an indelible mark on our school,” Mary Ellen Mega said. “He provided the guidance we needed at a time when we really needed him.”

“The Long Trail community will be forever grateful for the impact you made on our school in such a short time,” she added. “ You are truly a remarkable educator, leader and person.”

Scranton, who was previously headmaster at Burr and Burton Academy and director of the Rowland Foundation, said his brief experience leading the school made retiring for a third time difficult.

“I’ve known Long Trail for 30 years, and now I don’t want to go,” he said.

Colin Igoe, presently Upper School head at St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, will become Long Trail’s next permanent head of school in July.

The graduates: Timur Anafin, Kassidy Brooks, Willow Hughes-Muse, Thomasz Koc, Patryk Lukaszweski, Damian Markovic, Anna Matthewson, Max Orava, Cannon Petry, Ian Philip, Grace Porter, Laura Rosenthal, Arslan Sanabayev, Noel Schlageter, Grace Schmidt, Devon Shapiro, Kathryn Smith, Mackenzie Smith and Julia Worland.

Reach Greg Sukiennik at gsukiennik@manchesterjournal.com or at 802-447-7567, ext. 119.

Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for ESPN.com, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.


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