Chelsea Graduation Celebrates a Caring Community

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Front Page / Jun. 15, 2017 8:42am EDT

Graduation 2017
By Keegan & Emily Marshia


Hand over his heart for the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Chelsea Graduation, TJ Moreno plans to attend Johnson State College in the fall. (Herald / Bob Eddy) Hand over his heart for the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Chelsea Graduation, TJ Moreno plans to attend Johnson State College in the fall. (Herald / Bob Eddy) “In my mind, there is a composite sketch of a Chelsea graduation, an amalgamation of years past; it looks sort of like this—the trees on the hillsides, even the ashes, are fully leafed out. Community groups and organizations offer incredibly generous scholarships to assist graduates heading off to college. Paul Callens offers advice and insight, some appropriate and some not. Some people strain to hear the speaker, while others catch up with seldom-seen friends, and all the while, crying babies and restless children remind us how quickly our graduates have grown.”

This was the poignant scene set by guest speaker Erik Anderson for those gathered to celebrate Chelsea High School’s commencement Friday, June 9 inside a bustling and emotion-filled gymnasium. A procession of 14 graduates clad in black gowns, each with a red rose on his or her lapel, framed a ceremony that epitomized an intimate celebration of individuals and the Class of 2017 as a whole. Community member Bill Smith offered a robust rendition of the National Anthem to launch the festivities.


Grace Kay pins a boutonniere on graduation speaker, middle school teacher, Erik Anderson. (Herald / Bob Eddy) Grace Kay pins a boutonniere on graduation speaker, middle school teacher, Erik Anderson. (Herald / Bob Eddy) Salutatorian Alexis Allen offered a candid depiction of her class, sharing examples of class trip memories and a vignette involving a classmate hiding under a desk from a teacher. She also reflected seriously on the impacts each person created, “When all of you look up there, you see your sons, daughters, grandchildren, cousins. But when I look up there, I see the 2017 winter carnival champions, class clowns, different athletes, along with some of the funniest, most caring, and smartest people I know.”

Valedictorian Heather Peterson took a similar approach, reflecting on many moments to paint a portrait of her class and her place within it. Both Peterson and Allen offered appreciation to family members and friends for their support of each graduate’s successes and struggles. Both attended the Vermont Academy of Science & Technology (VAST) at Vermont Technical College during their senior year, but clearly maintained close ties to the school.

In closing, Peterson put it simply, “The class that sits before you is a group of crazy teenagers. We have rarely ever all agreed on anything. We have fought with one another quietly, and shouted at each other from across rooms. Some of us are excited for college, others are afraid of college, and others won’t bother with college. Some loved the high school experience, others hated it. We got through it together, and I’m proud to graduate alongside my class.”

After the traditional passing of the high school banner from the graduating class to the current juniors, Erik Anderson, Chelsea middle school math and science teacher, spun a tale of local flavor, advice, and humor that would have made an English teacher proud. While he set the stage with a magical depiction of Chelsea graduations, he did take issue with one time-honored tradition, saying “...there is one thing that always bothers me about graduation night, and that is the often stated notion that you are now entering the real world.”

After sharing his own by-chance and yet transformational journey into teaching and living in Chelsea that began 16 years ago, he continued, “Graduation night is not some magic portal into the real world. We do our graduates a disservice by implying that what they have done in school was in some way not real. That which has served you well in high school; working hard, trying new things, treating others with respect, will continue to serve you well. You leave behind the role of high school student and take on a new role in this world.”

Another former teacher, Matt Nerney, offered his guidance to the graduates. Change, tradition, and thoughtfulness were his frames of reference, along with cautions about the role of technology in our future. He urged them “to take the time to learn the old ways and the slow ways” of doing things to stay connected to work that matters.

A well-loved, new tradition in recent years capped the ceremony before the presentation of diplomas. School board members invite each graduate to go out into the audience and offer their personal appreciation to the individuals in their lives they most want to thank for helping them arrive at this moment of graduation. Graduates offer flowers to those people while soft music, many hugs and tears fill the space with gratitude, hope, and reflection.

Grads, Plans & Awards

•Alexis Allen, salutatorian, University of Vermont (early childhood education); Balfour Award, George Washington Lodge #51 Scholarship, Frank M. and Olive F. Gilman Foundation Scholarship, Merle G. Fitzgerald “Ideal Senior” Award, Faculty Award, Arthur Scott Memorial Trust, L.B. and Bertha Bowen

Trust, Canadian Club Scholarship, North Country Credit Union Scholarship, Vermont Association of Snow Travelers Scholarship, Daughters of the American Revolution Scholarship.

•Luke Durkee, Vermont Technical College (electrical engineering); Grace F. Chapin Award, Frank M. and Olive F. Gilman Foundation Scholarship, Elizabeth Richter Memorial Scholarship, L.B. and Bertha Bowen Trust, Skills USA Scholarship.

•Kierstin Ellsworth, entering the workforce; Frank M. and Olive F. Gilman Foundation Scholarship.

•Kylie Flye, entering the workforce; Hilary Spires Memorial Poetry Award.

•Grace Kay, University of Vermont (health sciences); L.B. and Bertha Bowen Trust, Friends of Chelsea Scholarship, Vermont Honors Program Scholarship.

•Tristan Larocque, entering the workforce; Principal’s Award and Friends of Chelsea Scholarship.

•TJ Moreno, entering the workforce.

•Elisha Mattoon, Vermont Technical College (Mechanical Engineering); L.B. and Bertha Bowen Trust.

•Brooke Moses, Community College of Vermont (business); L.B. and Bertha Bowen Trust and Paul Callens’ Scholarship.

•Heather Peterson, valedictorian, Norwich University (mechanical engineering); Melvin C. Somers Math Award, David Shipp English Award, Grace F. Chapin Award, L.B. and Bertha Bowen Trust, Norwich Presidential Scholarship.

•Roger Remacle III, United States Air Force.

•Dario Spinella, River Valley Community College (radiography); Harry Goodwin Memorial Scholarship, L.B. and Bertha Bowen Trust.

•Molly Stetson, entering the workforce.

•Makayla Tiffany, entering the workforce.

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