The Mountain Times

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And, they're off! WUHS graduates 78

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 here."
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 pre-law.

"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."

Tagged: Graduation, Woodstock