Congratulations Graduates!

Congratulations to the eighth grade class of 2013! We are very proud of you and excited to see you continue to grow. We had another great graduation this year and our audience spilled out into the entrance of the school – there just wasn’t enough room to fit us all in there. We had family members from the area and from out of town, and some alumns came to say hello to the teachers and congratulate the graduating class! It was a great evening.

Each year, the eighth grade students choose their guest speaker, and this year they chose Emma Hansen, Thaddeus Stevens School Alum (’02), and recent graduate of the University of Vermont (’12).

Congratulations again, graduates!  And please visit us in the future!


Graduation 2013 Guest Speaker Speech Text

I first would like to welcome you all here today, and thank you for coming.  And I want to thank the 8th grade students for asking me to speak on behalf of them today; I am honored and humbled to be up here, as I have only been working with the students and faculty members for a few weeks.

During that short time I have seen the relationships that these students have with the faculty here.  I see affection, respect, diligence, and laughter.  What you have with your teachers is unique to the Thaddeus Stevens School environment.  There is tremendous respect and love between you all, something that might be difficult to foster in future educational institutions.  As you think back on your years here, I want you to remember and treasure what you have gained as a result of these relationships.   I’m just tickled to see the relationship you all have with my mother, Mrs. Hansen.  In many ways, it reminds me of the relatinoship I have with her.  Our opinions can clash, but we are willing to have the discussion.  We can tease each other and laugh about it, but can also have a serious discussion about the meaning of a single word in a single sentence in an entire novel.  And I’ve seen you all do the same.

I also remember when I was in your position.  As many of you know, I also graduated from the Thaddeus Stevens School.  Now, I’m the one standing up here looking at the new graduating class.   Many of you have seen how we have grown as a community, and w all look back fondly on the years when the school was still in Peacham.  We were just talking about some of these memories yesterday.  The journey we have taken together as a community is one of joy, sacrifice, and challenge.  You will continue to face similar journeys, so you must remember how you faced them here: head on, and as a group standing together.

I’m sure you’re excited and scared to begin your journey through high school.  There will be new challenges, new friendships, and new opportunities.  As you approach these changes, remember what you have learned here: face these challenges head on, help out new students, and grasp your opportunities.  The mission of this school demands respect for others, and demands celebration of our differences.  Never, ever forget that.  Now, you must carry forth the mission of the Thaddeus Stevens School.

It will be challenging.  There will be days when you don’t want to get involved, or that you would rather turn your head the other way when a student is bullying another student.  There will be times when you feel too scared to stand up for someone else, or for yourself.  It is during that time that you must remember our mission statement: “embrace human diversity, and thrive in a complex world.”  It is during that time that you must trust yourself and your strength, because you all have it within you.  You are all capable of being fearless, and that is what you must remember, even when you are scared.  I have seen you all demonstrate the ability to stand up for others, and to love and support each other.  You have shown us the passion you all have, whether it is for art, music, literature, numbers, or science.  You’ve had highs and lows together, and you know what moments I’m referring to.  But, look at you now.  You’re graduating and the bonds you all have with each other cannot be broken.  You have learned to be truthful, to take responsibility, and to stand up for others.  You embrace your differences, and you challenge those who are intolerant.  These are traits that will serve you well for the rest of your lives.  You just have to remember to use them.  As I’m sure you have heard Mrs. Hansen say before: “this above all, to thine own self be true.”  And I know I don’t need to remind you who said that.

You all have brought your talents to this school, and that will be your legacy.  We will all remember you – what you have learned, and what you have taught us.  You have shown us how to work together as a team, how to resolve our differences, and how to remain friends even if you disagree.

There is no other school that you will attend where you can scare your teacher one moment, and the next moment you analyze the social argument in Shakespeare’s Othello.  There will not be another time again where you can have an honest and lighthearted conversation about the subliminal messages in a painting – perhaps a message you might have missed (I’m looking at you, Carmen).  You will not have the opportunity to play a handclap game about square numbers while waiting in line for your lunch.  You won’t be able to explore the history of the Middle East before heading outside for a walk together – and still continue the conversation even when you could be talking about a new movie coming out, or the sleepover you might have this weekend.  And, you won’t be able to work in the field studying vegetation and streams, all while laughing and joking with your teacher about coca-cola.

And it is because of this that you must always remember your time here.  It is because these opportunities and relationships are unique that you must treasure what you have gained at this school.  It is your responsibility now to carry forth these memories and these lessons.  Pass them on to your new classmates, to the new student sitting next to you, and to the teacher struggling to keep the group interested.  You will fall, and you will succeed.  But never forget to keep going, and to keep listening to yourself.  And never forget to come back and visit us.

Thank you for all you have shown us.  Now it’s time for you to go show the rest of the world what you are capable of.  As many of you know, I’ve told you not to end on a quote, but I’m going to leave you with an old Chinese proverb: “a teacher will show you the door, but you must enter it yourself.”