The scoreboard at Spartan Arena was set to “20-19” with a time of “20:19” as members of the Rutland High School Class of 2019 spent their last moments as high school students Thursday.
“It’s over,” declared Caitlin French, the first of two “class honor” speakers, after recalling watching the smiles on faces as she played “Pomp and Circumstance” with the school band at RHS’ previous three graduation ceremonies. “We did it. ... We are all at the point where we are considering where we have been, where we are and where we are going.”
French asked her classmates to high-five the person next to them.
“While each and every one of you will walk across this stage with different perspectives, different experiences and different memories from these past four years, something in our school continuously brought us all together,” she said. “This place that we have called home for 1,460 days has allowed us to discover our interests, find our niches and pursue our passions.”
French encouraged classmates to keep pursuing those passions.
“Live, love, create and build the life that is meaningful to you — the life that will make your soul shine,” she said. “Today, you are a high school student. Tomorrow, you are whatever you want to be. Thanks for going to school with me. It’s been fun.”
French was followed by fellow graduate Austin Robertson, who talked about how the class was a family.
“Families allow for growth,” he said. We began as freshmen — scared, naive, innocent, confused ... As people, we became more independent and became responsible for our own learning. ... We continued to build each other up and support each other’s growth. That’s what families do.”
French said they faced challenges together, were there for each other despite not always getting on, and inspired each other.
“Families build strong bonds,” he said. “The bonds we built while in RHS are unbreakable. We celebrated and appreciated the good times, and stuck together through the tough times. One thing I want all of us to remember is that wherever our lives take us, we will always be able to call RHS home. And I am so glad to have had the privilege to call you all my brothers and sisters.”
Commencement speaker Caitlin McKane, a graduate of the Class of 2004, described coming back to watch a friend give the commencement speech in 2007 and being told by one of her former teachers that she might be the school’s graduation speaker one day. McKane said she doubted it.
“Graduates, let my standing here before you today be proof that your teachers really know a thing or two,” she said. “And just be warned, that if you question the lessons of your teachers, you may find yourself standing in front of an audience of 1,500 people, looking to Mr. Peterson, and saying ‘I’m sorry I ever doubted you, you were right.’”
McKane went on to describe the decision process that led to her spending a summer in India following her sophomore year in college. She had a number of reservations, she said, including that it would likely make her the only member of her nursing program not working in a hospital that year. She went, and volunteered with the missionary network founded by Mother Teresa.
“I may not have been in the hospital learning, but I was learning in a different way,” she said. The lesson, she said, was to take advantage of opportunities.
“And perhaps you won’t be able to take advantage of every opportunity, but do me a favor and at least consider it,” she said. “Put yourself in an environment outside your typical comfort zone. Know that it can and will get hard, but have faith that those uncomfortable moments may turn out to be some of the most rich and most rewarding adventures of your life.”