Neerusha Phuyal

Graduate Neerusha Phuyal leaves the stage with the Sue Whitemore Award for the Dorset House at the Tuttle Middle School graduation last week.

“Is it on?” 

Eden August-Rain adjusted the microphone in its stand. 

“Hello?” Her voice, now amplified, bounced around the room. “We did it!” she exclaimed. 

Though referring to her remedy of onstage technical troubles, August-Rain’s speech to Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School’s graduating eighth-grade class carried the same enthusiastic sentiment.

The school’s two student houses, Fusion and Dorset, each selected a student to speak at their graduation last Thursday. August-Rain represented Dorset House.

“No matter how you spent your middle school years, it matters,” she said. “It’s a part of you,  and now it’s a part of your story. You have come so far already.”

The South Burlington middle school graduated 174 eighth-graders in a brief ceremony attended by nearly 1,000 friends and family members.

Before the speeches began, the seventh-grade orchestra, led by Director David Grippo, played the graduating students into the South Burlington High School gymnasium. 

Principal Karsten Schlenter then took to the podium to address the graduating class. He encouraged inquiry and critical thinking, saying, “This is your time to explore, to become critical, to ask questions, and to not always accept the status quo.”

Schlenter also encouraged the newly minted high school students to value each other’s uniqueness. 

“You live in a community that is increasingly diverse, and it is up to us to embrace these differences, to embrace diversity, and to practice tolerance,” he said. 

Between speakers, Schlenter and several teachers presented awards for character, leadership and academic excellence.

Following August-Rain at the podium, classmate Baxter Lowell of Fusion House addressed the gathering, conveying thanks to the school’s teachers and paying homage to classmate Claire Deng, who passed away in February. 

“I was amazed at how our team came together to support one another, whether we were close or not,” Lowell said. “I know we all like to think of ourselves as a team, but when we all bonded over an event as sad as what happened, it is comforting to think that our team is truly a family and that we could support each other when we most needed it.”

After the ceremony’s speakers and awards distribution, each student crossed the stage to receive an unframed paper diploma from Principal Schlenter. Though he requested the audience hold their applause until the final graduate, eighth-graders and families alike cheered with zeal for the students they knew.

Assistant Principal David Hyatt praised the students in an interview before the ceremony. “They’ve really represented themselves well. They’ve dealt with some things as a class that really showed a lot of maturity,” he said. “They’re just super-nice kids — they really are.”

Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.

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