Shepaug Valley High School Students Graduate

July 2, 2005 | By John Addyman

Thank God for the breeze and for prior graduating classes that planted trees in the area.

On a 90-degree scorcher of a day, Shepaug Valley high school graduated 84 members of the class of 2005 and couldn’t help but give them a warm send-off.

“If you do not know what you want to do with your life—and I would guess that most of you do not at this point—then try some different things until you find out,” advised third-year Spanish teacher Michael Nolan, who closed the ceremony at the request of the class.

“No matter where you are headed from here, it’s fine to have fun but make sure you learn a lot about yourself, become literate and numerate and make your parents and Shepaug teachers proud of you. I know you will.”

Mr. Nolan finished by telling the graduates to remember their friends at Shepaug.

Class advisers Christine Shugrue and Mark Peters said they’d had a busy time counting—cookie and brownie sales, caps and gowns, tickets and trip money.

“Today we count on the graduates,” said Ms. Shugrue.

“We count on them for leadership and courage,” said Mr. Peters.

“And to share the joy we all find at Shepaug,” added Ms. Shugrue.

Class president Alexandra Gross said the departing seniors could take credit for having “one of the most innovative classes in Shepaug history,” and told everyone they have the “combined personal strengths and goals to achieve success.”

Salutatorian David Breeckner chose a quote from Ivy Baker Priest, who rose from poverty in Utah to become the Secretary of the Treasury in the Eisenhower years.

He said the years at Shepaug were “all rehearsals for the main performance that will be the rest of our lives.” A transfer from another school as a sophomore, he said he was “struck by the number of choices . . . and the opportunity to follow our dreams” at the school.

As an outsider coming in, he recognized the cliques in the school, but saw people get past that.

“As a class, we pretty much stuck together through the years . . . when many others would have splintered and failed.”

He asked his classmates to expect some setbacks, but to remember Ms. Priest’s words from 1958: “The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.”

Valedictorian Camille Bevans said it occurred to her that she and her classmates “spent a lot of time in high school learning how to follow the rules.”

Now, she said, graduates were faced with “immense freedoms” and the challenge of “finding ourselves and creating ourselves.”

Her advice was to “live outside the box,” but also shared a piece of wisdom: “There is no box.”

And she shared something she learned about life’s lessons at camp: “Being happy doesn’t mean that everything has to be perfect,” she said, “but that you can look past all of life’s imperfections.”

School Superintendent Richard Carmelich said he had been reading a book on today’s graduates, “Millennials Rising,” about the generation born after 1982, which is already a unique segment of society, “more numerous, more affluent, and more ethnically diverse.

“More important, they are beginning to manifest a wide array of positive social habits that older Americans no longer associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty and good conduct.”

This generation, authors Neil Howe and William Strauss believe, “will entirely recast the image of youth from downbeat and alienated to upbeat and engaged. Today’s kids are on track to become a powerhouse generation.”

Dr. Carmelich said he has already seen the signs. “Every time I enter a Shepaug Valley High School classroom, witness a senior graduation project or discuss with Mr. Horrigan the impact of their community service, I am amazed what these young people do.

“They have demonstrated intellect, energy, passion for learning and compassion for others.”

Principal Gene Horrigan took the podium and asked a question familiar to many who have attended Shepaug graduations: Are the graduates worthy of commencing a new life in town, completing a great tradition?

He admires the 19th and 20th century practice of questioning graduates-to-be at commencement exercises, making sure they really are prepared. But as he normally does, he asked the questions and answered them himself on behalf of the graduates.

But he added a twist, bringing with him a list of questions from a meeting he had with eighth graders who were soon to enter the high school, eighth graders who would end up being the Class of 2005.

“Is high school hard?” the eighth graders asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Horrigan said. Class of 2005 graduates earned an average of 30.5 credits, well beyond state mandates. Graduates completed eight computer competencies.

“We are told by state officials our graduates are one of the first classes so prepared to face the future.”

Graduates met the requirement for 30 hours of community service and on average, exceeded that by 20 hours. Collectively, senior contributed 4,758 hours of work in the community, “by far our largest school total.”

“Can I get into college?”

Seniors gained acceptance into 48 of America’s most competitive and highly competitive colleges; 45 acceptances at very competitive colleges and 83 at competitive colleges.

Class of 2005 students will be on their way to colleges all over the U.S., and some will attend art or music schools. One graduate is on his way to a specialty NASCAR automotive campus.

Are there any special projects?

“These graduates learned to deal with the long-awaited challenges of something called ‘Senior Project,’” said Mr. Horrigan. “They learned to face their own procrastination, some of which reached a new professional level.

“They scrambled as deadlines menacingly approached . . . they learned to take responsibility for some of their own shortcomings and mini-failures.

“And almost every student learned to be very grateful to the many others who helped in this Advanced Placement course for life. In one June presentation, a particular student graciously thanked 27 others.

“Senior projects grew out of a real desire to help others, and to give to others’ he said. “These graduates helped us understand the problems of the world.”

What happens with sports?

Mr. Horrigan ticked off three Berkshire League championships teams, three team sportsmanship awards, a state championship in cross county, 50 league all-stars and an athlete of the year.

Are there any plays?

The list was impressive: “The Importance of Being Earnest;” “42nd Street;” “Footloose;” “The Miracle Worker;” “Kiss Me Kate;” “Story Theater; Seussical.”

Mr. Horrigan also remembered reading to a class of fourth graders, some of the same young men and women now sharing the bright sunshine and the top of the breezy hill with him. He got many notes from those kids, which he saved.

“So, in the literary style of that fourth-grade class from the spring of 1997, I now write to the Class of 2005,” he said.

“Thank you very much for coming to Shepaug High School. Always remember it is good to read books to others. You were very good. We will miss you.”

The members of the class of 2005 follow:

Jessica Lea Alex, Jamie Lynne Beckman, Adam Joseph Bedini, Thomas John Belanger, Camille Alexandra Bevans, Erik James Bjornberg, Robert Leigh Bollard, Brandon Robert Bouquillon, David James Breeckner, Sean Corey Brennan, Luke Walker Brigham, Ginna Elizabeth Britez, Kyle Reilly Brown, Jenna Marie Butler, Stephanie Cardi, Christopher Graham Carlson, Kyle Louis Cipully, Elizabeth J. Clinton, Christin Lauren Cole, Danielle Helen Delisle;

Eamonn Michael DiGaetano, James H. Edwards, Christopher D. Fehr, Jeffrey Brian Fleet, Peter Gregory Foster, Jenny Kathleen Francis, Kate Hamill Fredlund, John David Galinski, Aubri Mae Grapkoski Gillespie, Alexandra Gillen Gross, Michael G. Haydin IV, Ryan Gunnar Hays, Megan Marie Henry, Courtney Elizabeth Hora, JonCarl Hornish, E. Michael Horrigan, Travis John Horrigan, Kurt Wolfgang Isolda, Jake Edward Kara, Aaron Michael Wong Kaufman, Audrey Elizabeth Kimball;

Josh E. Kimball, Julie Rae LaBella, Rory Glenn Larson, James Patrick Lowe, David Frances Lowe, Jesse Parker Mackie, Paul M. Mainolfi, Philip A. Mainolfi, Julie Ann Mangino, Matthew Thomas Marcucio, Megan Alyssa Mausolf-Mark, Ryan John McGorty, Rachael Marie McHan, Joshua Jeffrey McSherry, Christopher Adrian Millan, Casey Delia Morrissey, Emily Arlene Mulhern, Joshua Owen Murphy, Tucker Ramsdell Neary, Amanda Jo Nelson, Anastasia Alexandria Palella, Michelle Jean Parzuchowski, Aaron Pierce;

Melissa Porras, Jessica Lynn Randall, Allison Jo Rockwell, Daniel E. Schrier, Carly Anne Seguin, Thomas Robert Sherry, Jr., Caitlyn Rose Sincerbeaux, Katie A. Stevens, Meredith Ashley Stuart;

Jonathan J. Taylor, Graham Thomas Torpey, Ian Charles Underwood, Kevin R. Uniacke, Jr., Eric James VanSteenbergen, Sean Michael Voelpel, Brett Alan vonReyn, Sean Michael Walsh, Claire Ramsey Wescott, Meghan Corrigan Williams, Richard P. Wilson.

One other group that will be missed, one that also said good-bye to Shepaug, is a sextet of retiring teachers with many, many years of dedicated service to a couple of generations of students: Bonnie Grinvalsky, Henry Ference, Emil Gaveras, Carolyn Gordon, Sandy Altschuler and Tony Terravainen.

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