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RA graduates 35 seniors

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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ORFORD—Rivendell Academy Class of 2015 was recognized for its honesty, forthrightness and individuality at its commencement on June 13.

On a cool, sunny morning, the 3 5 members of the Class of 2015 marched into the gym to the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance." They were led by junior class marshals Talar Gelenian and Cameron Day. After the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, Rivendell Superintendent Brenda Needham welcomed the class and wished them "a wonderful future" with the hope that "you will make a difference for those around you and never forget where you came from."

Keri Gelenian, head of schools and Rivendell Academy principal, recognized and congratulated everyone who had helped the class get to this point: grandparents and great-grandparents, parents and guardians, siblings and cousins, school staff and teachers.

Addressing the class, he said, "you have always been truthful and forthright. Continue to walk in the path of truth." Truth requires discipline and courage, and a sharp mind, he added. He cautioned that "standing up for truth can be a lonely process," but said truth is "the compass we use to direct our lives."

"At Rivendell, we have encouraged you to explore truth," Gelenian said, telling the class to "seek truth, and fight for it."

Gelenian recognized the 15 honors students in the class, led by two co-valedictorians whose 4.0 grade point averages were separated by only two-tenths of a point.

Michael Galli, RA dean of students and social studies teacher, spoke to the class. He shared recollections of encounters with each one and invited an unsuspecting Will Gardner to play and sing, a performance his classmates and their families applauded in a standing ovation.

Co-valedictorian Miranda Garrow recalled some of the "little moments" she and her classmates are going to remember and admonished them to "drive safely, make smart decisions and make more memories."

A musical interlude by the chorus included a Nigerian song, sung a cappella. The second song was dedicated to the class. "I hope you dance" opened with the line, "I hope you never lose your sense oi wonder."

Co-valedictorian Christian Parenti looked back over his 2,340 days of school in Rivendell. "Think back to your first day," he said. "Everything was new... and I hated it." He was similarly unhappy and fearful about starting all over again in middle school, when Samuel Morey and Westshire came together.

He turned to sports with the wish "to make my Dad proud." But, in sports, he said, you need confidence, and that was what he lacked.

Then, one day, Parenti said, his father told him not to think of pleasing everyone else and just to go have fun, and he did. "That was the best game of my life," he said. "For the first time ever I had confidence... I found myself, and had more fun."

"Do what makes you happy, and everything will fall into place," he concluded, as he thanked his parents, teachers, friends and family.

Laurie Gould, the mother of 2015 graduate Kayla Gould, was the invited guest speaker.

"Remember where you came from and who you are. Go forward and share all you've learned," she said. "You're famous to all their teachers" and other school staff, starting from prek through high school, she said, as she listed every one, then continued with a brief message for each graduate.

After the graduates received their diplomas, class advisor Nicki Barsamian addressed them. She described them as a class of extremes, creativity and individuality. That individuality, she suggested, will be helpful in the long run.

"Think of your classmates, especially the ones you didn't get along with," she said. "If you understand differences, you'll be ages ahead of today's world leaders." Rather than trying to change other people, she concluded, "try to change yourself and understand others."

What then began as an orderly recessional quickly broke up as the new graduates sought out family, friends and others who "had a special impact on their school success" to recognize with a flower. Outdoors, they received congratulations and posed for pictures before coming together once again to fling their mortar boards into the air, then gradually disperse.

Cicely Richardson may be contacted at

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Original Publication Date: June 17, 2015

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