Mount Anthony Union High School graduates 211 students

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BENNINGTON — A blue banner under a blue sky.

That's what greeted the about 200 graduates of Mount Anthony Union High School Friday evening as they celebrated their last moments as a class.

The school's 53rd commencement ceremony took place on Spinelli Field. Two hundred and eleven graduates were scheduled to receive their diplomas that evening.

As graduates filed in pairs down a long, roped-off path to their seats in front of the stage, the MAU band played the processional, "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar.

Family and friends stood up to welcome the graduates, some waving, others cheering, and some standing on chairs to see their graduate above the sea of faces. Some fanned themselves with their programs, as the temperature had climbed above 80 degrees.

There were several performances throughout the ceremony. The MAU Chamber Singers performed "Omnia Sol (Let Your Heart be Staid)" by Z. Randall Stroope. The MAU Choir presented "A Million Dreams," by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and "The Alma Mater The Impossible Dream." Erica Sholes, Rachel Langlois and Elizabeth Malinowski also performed the National Anthem, to enthusiastic claps.

Principal Stephen Nixon welcomed the class to the ceremony.

Graduation confers diplomas — but the day is about so much more than that, he said.

Namely, it signifies growth in the "last act" between the student and teacher, he said.

The day is also about goals, he said, urging the graduates to always have them.

"If for no other reason than to try to be the best you can be," he said.

He called graduation day a "get" day, in which many graduates get things like flowers, presents and parties. And they deserve this, he said.

"But in life, you also need give days," he told them. He urged the students to consider the giving their parents, teachers and community have done for them.

"Today was brought to you by the letter G," he concluded. "Good bye, and good luck."

Shawn Devlin, class president, began his speech with a promise to be quick — as the Red Sox were playing that night.

He said he attended his first MAU graduation when he was in the third grade.

"I decided that day I wanted to speak at mine," he said.

He had trouble writing his speech, he said, but with help, he did. He reminded his classmates to consider the people who've helped them.

"If it wasn't for the great people behind you, there'd be nothing in front of you," he said. "Make sure you thank your people."

Devlin said he thinks everyone has their place at MAU.

"A place where they feel safe," he said. "I hope everyone remembers their place here at Mount Anthony."

Sarah Lapean, salutatorian, began by telling her classmates she found out she had to give a speech only 48 hours before the ceremony.

She tried movies and inspirational music to help her write it, but in the end, she said, she got all she needed from a quick trip to Willow Park with a friend.

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She said if high school taught her anything, it was that time passes, no matter what. It's up to the graduates to make those moments matter, she said.

"Inspiration doesn't need to come from far-away people," she said. She concluded with a quote she said was from a couple years ago from a classmate: "All moments will be memories."

"We've all had our moments at MAU," Lapean said. "Be bold in your lives, and don't dismiss the inspiration that comes from unexpected places."

Cailin Comar, faculty speaker and English teacher, said that when she sat down to write her speech, she asked herself what she'd remember most about the class of 2019.

The answer?

"Everything," she said, recalling the bickering and the joys.

"Through the gripes and the grudges, there has always been an indelible bond," she said. "When one of you was in need, differences were put aside."

She recalled how the students supported each other through loss, like the death of loved ones.

"You took care of each other," she said. "You even took care of me."

She said she's inspired by the graduates' grit and honesty in facing difficulty.

"I implore you to keep drawing, keep listening and to never forget what you meant to each other," she said.

Valedictorian Evan Kozierok was the last speaker. He gave the disclaimer that unlike salutatorian Lapean, he has no plans to major in English.

He asked the graduates to think about the concept of caring.

"The reason I like the word `care' so much is that you can use it in so many different ways," he said.

One can care for someone hurt, or care about an activity, or care about a field of study.

"Who and what you choose to care about tells the story of you," he said.

He urged his classmates to care — namely, to find the people and things they care about, and make connections.

And most importantly, not to settle for less.

Kozierok recalled a class he took where he had a personality clash with the teacher. The teacher didn't settle — one day, he told Kozierok he expected respect from him.

"He was not content when I told him I would try," Kozierok said. "He would not settle for less, and nobody should."

He told the graduates he hopes they find the people and things they care about.

"The choices in your life are yours to make," he said. "[I hope] you never settle for less."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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