The 40 students, many of whom have known each other since preschool, have grown extremely close as a result of dealing with and supporting each other through hardships that many people never experience in a lifetime. Devastating flooding from Tropical Storm Irene began the school year; an October car crash followed, which left senior Trey Cunningham in a coma with serious injuries; and a November hunting accident resulting in the death of two local men had the whole community reeling.
In her speech, Lozito said, “The story of this community is one we can be most proud of.” To her classmates, Lozito said, “You are not defined by the tragedies themselves, but by how you have overcome them.”
Principal Bob Morse said, “The kids really matured this year, a lot more than they normally would have. We have a school community of students, teachers, parents, and administrators, and it was a real sense of community to work together and get through this year. They ended up a lot stronger because of it.”
In his speech at the graduation ceremony, Morse incorporated humor into his address to the class. He welcomed them, not to the graduation ceremony itself, but to life post-high school. “You earn many, many privileges when you graduate. So, welcome to paying bills, doing your own laundry, buying your own food, and paying your own rent.” He added, “On the other hand, welcome to going to the Mobil whenever you want, and talking on the phone whenever you want.” All the while Morse entertained the audience and the graduating class by donning a baseball hat and sunglasses and making an imaginary call on his cell phone. Morse topped off the humor by saying, “I hope the world is as challenging to you as you have been here.”
Windham Southwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Jack Rizzo greeted the class with “You didn’t think you were going to get out of here without an aloha, did you?” Rizzo added, “A few years ago you probably thought it just meant hello or goodbye. But now you know what it means; it means love.”
Rizzo expressed thanks to parents and other family members as students’ “first, best, and most influential teachers.” He said, “Thank you for all your years of dedication. Thank you for holding the line when you needed to, and bending when you needed to.” Rizzo also thanked the faculty and staff, including the “standup comedian” in reference to Morse’s humor. Rizzo said, “I am so gullible. Over the past year I could never tell when he was joking because he always kept such a straight face.”
Salutatorian and class president Sophie Zschirnt spoke to the audience and said, “You are the people who’ve given us the strength to take these steps. We owe some of our success to you, but in the end we had to get ourselves to this moment.”
Zschirnt said that while she may still look like the same 14-year-old girl who first began high school, “The girl who came here four years ago may have thought about standing here and giving a speech but never would’ve done it. The girl who would turn bright red and hyperventilate giving a speech to 10 students can now give a speech to hundreds of people.” Zschirnt said, “I want you to remember who I am, and I want you to remember who we are. Whatever road you take from here, I wish you the best of luck.”
Borrowing a quote from Trey Parker, a co-creator of the “South Park” television show, Lozito said, “Saying goodbye doesn’t mean anything; it’s the time spent together that matters.”
Note: A complete list of Twin Valley award winners will appear in next week’s edition.