By Stephen Seitz
LUDLOW—If nothing else, the Black River High School class of 2017 will remember their commencement speaker with a smile, as diplomas were handed out to the 26 new graduates on June 17.
The class voted to hear from Craig Goodman, who founded and runs Goodman’s American Pie in Ludlow. He was graduated from Black River in 1988, and from there, went on to become a janitor, mechanic, dishwasher, and restaurateur. To judge from the reaction to his speech, he might be able to add standup comedian to the list.
“I thought we had it all figured out,” Goodman said. “My friend and I loaded everything we had into a $200 VW van I fixed up and decided to go to California. We made it to New Jersey when the gas tank was leaking so bad the van filled with gas fumes. We patched up the tank and were down to our last $1,200. Then the transmission blew in Cincinnati, Ohio. So we sold everything we and got Greyhound tickets.”
Goodman said he spent some time living in a VW Beetle, and then his life changed when he applied for work at a gas station.
“That’s when I met my wife,” he said. “She has been my saving grace ever since.”
His main message to the Class of 2017 was to let them know they always had choices. He illustrated this principle with an account of a baseball game he was in.
“The pitcher had the fastest fast ball,” Goodman said. “So I told him things like, ‘I’ve seen better pitching in Tee Ball.’ By the time I came up, he was really mad at me. Now, I know I told you I only had two choices there, but I took the third choice,” he added. “I crowd the plate. I grip the bat. I face him down, knowing if the ball gets past me, the catcher is going to have two broken fingers. The ball races at me, and I take one in the hip. I suck at baseball.”
After the laughter died down, he said, “Make the choice. Do what’s right for you.”
Valedictorian Aiyana Fortin looked back to her kindergarten days to measure how far along she and her classmates had come.
“Did you ever think that those kindergarteners would grow into fighters, journalists, and athletes?” she said. “We need to look forward with positive attitudes and great expectations. Chase your dreams, smile, and live your lives with purpose.”
Salutatorian Jakob DeArruda said his time in the school system seemed to fly by.
“2009 was just last year, wasn’t it?” DeArruda said, adding, “What does it mean to learn? Knowledge is defined by the ability to think.”
For Two Rivers Supervisory Union superintendent Meg Powden, this was her first graduation ceremony in this school system.
“It was great, getting to send off the graduates,” she said. “We wish them well.”
For Bruce Schmidt, the chairman of the Union 39 School Board, the graduation ceremony is a celebration of community.
“It all goes back to community,” he said. “It shows you how much pride people have in this town.”
Then, a question for the new grads: now what?
DeArruda said he was on his way to Stonehill College, a Catholic school in Easton, Mass.
“I’m an undeclared major,” he said. “I like history and English, so I may end up in one of those fields.”
Bridget Faenza had twin girls graduating.
“They’re fraternal,” she said. “Mary is going to St. Michael’s to study early education, and Alice is going to New England College to study physical education.”
Alice Marie Hansen said she would be missing her daughter, Olivia Burroughs, who heads to Castleton in the fall.
“It’s empty nest for sure,” she said. “She’s my youngest daughter.”
The Black River High School Class of 2017 includes: Sage McGhie Allen; Alexandra Elizabeth Barton; Cynthia Lynn Briggs; Olivia Cary Burroughs; Madison Aleen Dean; Alice Elizabeth Fuenza; Mary Margaret Faenza; Aiyana Geimer Fortin; Charles John Garrow-Wooley; Hailey Rebecca Gates; Holly Elizabeth Grace Goodman; Dayne Robert Greineder; Sebastian Michael Loyzelle; Bailey Louise Matteson; Aaron Peter Anthiny Miller; Dillon Michael Murray; Bhavin Kiran Patel; Jason Lawrence Peters, Jr.; Katelin Ann-Marie Powers; Mason Tyler Staples; Eliza Jo Tarbell; Gavin Sidney Tatro; Dylan Marcus VanGuilder, Madeline Susan Veysey; and Maximum Volz. (Yes, that’s his real name. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend.)
Photo by Steve Seitz
The Black River Senior Chorus opens ceremonies with “The Star-Spangled Banner.”