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Oxbow graduates Class of 2015

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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BRADFORD—The Mona Garone Gymnasium at Oxbow High School was packed on Friday evening as the school graduated 74 seniors as part of its 44th commencement ceremony.

Despite storm clouds overhead and the occasional shower, the mid-June evening was still humid enough that many in attendance fanned themselves with their commencement programs to cool down even before the ceremony got underway. But most paused and stood to recognize the class of 2015 as its members entered the gym, boys dressed in purple gowns and girls in white.

After they were all seated on stage, first-year principal Doug Harris greeted everyone from a podium festooned in purple and white flowers. He told the soon-to-be alumni that he had confidence in each and every member of the class and acknowledged the role the school has played as the students get ready to move out into the world.

"Your teachers share this evening with you," he said. "They have served to challenge you."

And Harris highlighted teachers—from Oxbow and elsewhere — in asking members of the class of 2015' s Honor Guard to stand and be recognized. Begun in 2014, every graduate has the opportunity to invite an adult from their k-12 education experience that had a significant impact on their lives.

The 31 members of the Honor Guard included teachers, support staff or administrators from elementary school or high school and came from New Hampshire, Vermont and North Carolina to attend. The group was acknowledged with applause.

Orange East Supervisory Union Superintendent Beth Cobb thanked the parents, guardians, school staff and faculty for aiding in the development of the graduates. She then turned to the seniors to recount some of the inventions, technological advancements and changes in the world over the last 18 years.

"You don't need to be a celebrity, a president or a professional athlete to make a difference," she said, before concluding with a quote from Ellen DeGeneres:

"Follow your passion. Stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else's path unless you're in the woods and you're lost and you see a path. By all means, you should follow that."

Class president Chase Andrews delivered the first student speech of the evening and sprung a surprise by ripping up a draft that had been proofed by administrators. He then injected a little levity in the evening by lamenting the amount of homework students have to do that keeps them awake well into the night.

"I'm not gonna lie," he said. "This is why people drink... coffee."

He said he hoped his classmates would not become bogged down with the seriousness of the evening.

"Good luck class of 2015," he said. "I thank you."

Social studies teacher Andrew Chobanian was selected as the class speaker and he told the class that they were prepared to move on.

"We have little left to teach you," he said. "I'm confident that you have what it takes to be successful."

He said this class has already proven that it has the capacity to take care of each other and he encouraged them to continue showing this characteristic.

"You have done so much for others," he said. "You have each other's back. Loyalty is what you have."

He concluded by acknowledging that class has experienced its hardships, particularly after one of its members Sean Tillotson passed away last summer.

"You understand the value and fragility of life" he said, adding that trait was evident in the selection of a class motto, "Carpe Diem. Seize the Day. Make your lives extraordinary"

Tillotson's parents, Gary and Bethanne, were at the ceremony in part to present a scholarship named after their son to graduating seniors Carter Goodell and Sydney Mclntire. Although Oxbow held Senior Awards Night on June 10, dozens of scholarships are handed out during the commencement ceremony as well Bruce Melendy and Oxbow alum Grady Johnson presented the Michael W. Johnson Memorial Scholarship, three days before the 12th anniversary of the Vermont State Police trooper's death. The award was given to Chase Andrews.

Valedictorian Rachel Lemay opened her remarks referring to Mr. Nobody, a 2009 independent from that features a man late in life surveying the choices he made and didn't make. She used some of the film's themes in advising her classmates to "choose their own path."

"Every path is the right path," she said quoting a character from the film. "Everything could have been anything else. And it would have just as much meaning."

After Lemay concluded, the seniors were called one by one to collect their diplomas and shake hands with the principal. After the final name was called, the class posed for photos as a group. Harris then instructed them to shift the tassle from one side to another and proclaimed them graduates.

And with that, the men and women of the class of 2015 marched off the stage and formed a receiving line outside the gym to greet family, friends and well-wishers as patches of blue sky emerged in the sky above.

Alex Nutide Biasi may be contacted at

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Original Publication Date: June 17, 2015

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