WOODSTOCK - Abundant late afternoon spring sunshine on June 15
perfectly matched the mood of optimism and high spirits as the
Woodstock Union High School Class of 2012 were handed their
diplomas and said their farewells.
"It's been one wild ride," a smiling Salutatorian Stephanie Ambrose
told her fellow graduates.
"We've often been told that these are the best years of our lives,
but if NECAP, SATs, and college prep are the best years,
something's gone seriously wrong."
On a more serious note, Ambrose noted her track and field
participation as a 400-meter sprinter and what it taught her.
"My best races have always been those in which I decide, at the
last instant, to give everything I have," she said.
The graduation capped a more eventful year than most for the
Woodstock seniors, who saw their year begin with Tropical Storm
Irene, followed by the death of Woodstock graduate Zack Frates (the
inspiration for Zack's Place, Woodstock's haven for the disabled)
and the subsequent death of English teacher Dr. Hasse Halley from a
traffic accident back in November.
Valedictorian Julian Scherding thanked the faculty, administration
and staff for their "commitment to youth."
Scherding ruminated on the obligation implied in a farewell speech
to give advice.
"I'm an 18-year-old kid," he said. "What advice could I possibly
give? This speech represents a parting when I'm not emotionally
ready to say goodbye."
Nonetheless, Scherding did have something he wanted to share.
"Remember where we came from," he said. "We have crossed a huge
bridge. Remember how we got here. It's difficult to place labels on
this class, difficult to confine us, and we've learned a great deal
Many high school graduations have some distinguished almunus or
alumna give the commencement address, but Woodstock graduates broke
with that, listening instead to their class president, Sarah
Callender. She noted with pride how her class pitched in with
everybody else to assist with storm recovery.
"When the skies opened up on our community, so did the hearts of
our residents," she said. "Everywhere I went, I saw my classmates
helping. I won't be surprised by anything we accomplish."
Seniors Dakota Bebo, Evan Newberry and Amanda Owen formed a "Speak
Chorus" which, accompanied by drums, recounted some of the class
highlights since middle school: backing a car into a swamp during
driver's ed, two male students flouting a "no bikinis" rule at one
swimming pool, practical jokes, and a special salute to one
freshman lad who took a senior to the junior prom one year.
Parents and families felt just as buoyant as the graduates.
Ruth Whitehead, whose family moved from Great Britain to Woodstock,
said her son, James, was off to the University of Vermont to study
"We're very proud," she said.
Graduating senior Melissa Croft said she was headed south.
"I'll be studying photography at the University of Tennessee at
Knoxville," she said. "I'm a little bit nervous, being so far away
from everybody. But I like the hot weather."
Nathan Tolosky got the double whammy: graduation was held on his
birthday. He said he expects to explore the engineering sciences,
or possibly architecture.
"It's indescribable," he said when asked his feelings on the
occasion. "I'm overwhelmed,"
His father, John Tolosky added, "He's our youngest. We're so proud
of him. He's grown into a fine young man."