ST. JOHNSBURY — The pomp and circumstance were back.
Following a one-year COVID-19 hiatus, St. Johnsbury Academy resumed its full-scale, in-person commencement exercise at Fairbanks Field on Monday morning.
In a nod to the pandemic, the event was moved outdoors. Friends and family sat in socially distant seats as 247 graduates received their diplomas during the two-hour ceremony. The weather cooperated, minus the heat, with clear skies and temperatures approaching 90.
Moises Zetune Zaga opened the day with a tone-setting invocation speech. He focused on lessons learned during COVID-19, and the unbreakable spirit of the Academy’s senior class.
“It is tempting after the last 15 months to look at our Academy experience with regrets, but this morning I want to begin our graduation ceremony with an attitude of gratitude,” he said.
He said the Class of 2021 overcame COVID chaos and found strength and stability in the Academy, each other, and the moments they shared.
“We can be proud that we overcame those obstacles, met challenges, and grew stronger and more courageous,” he said, adding that students made the best of an unusual situation. “This year was not what we thought it would be when we started our junior year, but it has been better than we expected it would be when we arrived in August.”
Co-valedictorians Constance Hammer and Luke Young-Xu both described the bittersweet emotions of leaving St. Johnsbury Academy, and starting the next chapter of their lives.
Looking back, Young-Xu said he would remember the good times.
“Though the paths taken to arrive at today’s singular destination are all extraordinarily varied and certainly have not been the smoothest at times, when I look back upon mine the unpleasantries and uncertainties fade into the distance, soon to be obscured by the glowing remnants of fondly remember days now past,” he said.
Looking forward, Hammer offered her fellow graduates some parting advice.
“I encourage you all to live in the present; explore and take risks without being discouraged by failure; not take things too seriously; and value the people around you because they define your experiences,” she said.
Making her first commencement address, first-year headmaster Sharon Howell urged students to be active listeners.
“We give speeches but after the noise and flurry of COVID, I also wish you all some quiet. I wish for you quiet in which to listen to others, and also to yourselves,” she said. “We say we need your voices, and that is true, but just as urgently we need your quiet. We need you to listen. We need the breathing in as much as the breathing out. There is no expression without inspiration. What we need right now — not only here but everywhere in the world — are listeners.”
Cierra Manassa-Curnin closed the ceremony with a heartfelt benediction where she expressed confidence in the senior class, and their futures.
“We’ve gone from new students struggling to find our way around campus to builders, creators, and leaders. We’ve created bonds and friendships that will last lifetimes. We’ve powered through obstacles that have forged our identities not only on campus, but in the larger world,” she said, adding, “As I look across to all of you graduates, people that I’ve laughed with and cried with. People who have stood by my side and people who have stood up for what they believe in, for change really. We are ready. Today let us close this chapter of our lives and begin a new one filled with extraordinary moments and opportunities.”
AWARD WINNERS: Susan Katherine Venner Memorial Prize, Caid Murphy; Catherine Matey Venner Memorial Prize, Lucas Chadderdon; Charles L. and Angelina Swift Prize, Constance Hammer; Luke Young-Xu, Clare Catherine Lovett Memorial Prize , Nelson Eaton; Anna Morse Prize, Luke Young-Xu; Donald M. Jacobs Prize, Constance Hammer; James Burlingame Prize, Ceirra Manassa-Curnin; Graham Newell Education Prize, Isabel Bourgeois; Byron Connor Roosa Memorial Prize, Alex Calcagni; Streeter-Trafton Prize, Taylor Tetreault and Eve Codling; Francis X. Ryan Memorial Prize, Pauline Currier; McGill Family Prize, Lily Barth; The Russell Payne Prize, Nelson Eaton; Fred Priest Memorial Prize, Isaiah Priest; Arthur and Helen Sprague Memorial Prize, Isabella Bostic; Tim Persons Memorial Prize, Anysa Denby; Donald Vear Memorial Prize, Michael Hazard; Ben and Rosalie Harris Prize, Taylor Tetreault; Thelma Mold Memorial Prize, Merrick Hemond; Jerry Drown Senior Prize, Chase Elliott; Ladd Family Prize, Hannah Roberts; Dussault Family Prize, Gabriel Hatch; Christopher Acton Memorial Prize, Lauren Trombley; Founders Prize, Holly Stein; Melissa Jenkins Memorial Prize, Ellie Coyle, Isaiah Priest; Class of 2008 Impact Prize, Ellen Meranze; Unsung Hero Award, Jack Driscoll; Laudamus Verum Magistrum Award, David Hale; The Headmaster’s Prize, Sierra Shippee and Steven Berchin
CLASS OF 2021: Kenneth E. Achilles, Nathaniel R. Adams, Arlo M. Aldrich, Margaret Vivian Anderson, Zachary T. Anti, Savino Antonio Argutto, Gardner Auchincloss, Hannah E. Bacon, Yu Bai, Gavin L. Bangs, Chenyu Bao, Colin D. Barney, Katherine E. Barney, Lily M. Barth, Braeden Webster Beck, Sara M. Bell, Steven Berchin, Xavier Bon Bibee, Isabella Claire Bostic, Isabel Iva Bourgeois, Latoya M. Bragdon, Molly Brennan, Tanner Bridges, Noah D. Brill, Hannah R. Brooks, Eric Broome, Samuel M. Bugbee, Hailey M. Buick, Betty Margaret Bunnell, Mario Alfredo Cabezas Alban, Alexander Calcagni, Isabella R. Canete, Bailey M. Caron, Sebastian S. Carroll, Lyliana A. Cass, Ella Ceppetelli, Julia A. Chadderdon, Lucas P. Chadderdon, Daniel J. Chapple, Stephanie J Chapple, Peter Edwin Charnley, Chelsea A. Chen, Jiazhen Chen, Sining Chen, Xinyu Chen, ZeLin Chen, Grace Jeralynn Clark, Pierce E. Clark, Millie W. Clarner, Alexandria Marie Tinker Cloutier, Eve L. Codling, Isabella Coe, Karen M. Conner, Elizabeth A. Coyle, Polly Currier, Katie L Cushing, Joanna Dahlan, Chuheng Dai, Mason Lee Davis, Miranda L. Degreenia, Emily Demers, Anysa M. Denby, Isidora E. Dickstein, Emily R. Doyon, Gavin M. Dufour, Alexis M. Duranleau, Nelson Caldwell Eaton, Denzel Ebohon, Chase Maxwell Elliott, Gabriel J. Elliott, Darby Ely, Hailey M. Emmons, Ella Gabrielle England, Rauf Emre Erkiletlioğlu, Aine L. Fannon, Hannah R. Ferry, Charlotte Flanders, Amber Sylvia Fuller, Tanner Mason Gaston, Gavin M. Ghafoori, Carter John Gingue, Jane Biddison Goodrich, Blake Ryder Guion, Caitlin Alexandria Haggett, Rylee B. Hall, Constance Ann Hammer, Cailin Hammond, Cameron David Harper, Gabriel Arthur Hatch, Geoffrey A. Hauver, Jaden Patrick Hayes, Michael J. Hazard, Merrick Grady Hemond, Anona Carlene Hening, Aliyah A. Hill, Ho Wang Ho, Max C. Holt, Aaliyah Jasmine Hooker, Ethan Bayard Howell, Yu Fan Hu, Nathan S. Hughes, Tamilore Oti Ikomi II, Weijie Jin, Emerson Abbey Jolliffe, Chihiro Kanayama, Lyn Kawano, Emma Keenan, Chaejin Kim, Mate Jozsef Koszo, Bogdan Kovalenko, Lily Virginia Krause, Chandler E. Labounty, Eric M. Lacaillade, Raine E. LaCourse, Connor Harrison Ladd, Cameron P. Lamarre, Evan C. Lamarre, Brandon S. Langmaid, Kylee R. LaPete, Holden Christian Larsen, Aidan M. Lawton, Francesca F. Leahy, David Joseph Lee, Jiawei Li, Kelsey N. Liberty, Kameron R. Lill, Grace A. Limoges, Fangyi Liu, Yijun Liu, Maximilian Laurenz Lusser, Katie D. Lyon, Pok Man Ma, Ceirra C. Manassa-Curnin, Alisa M. Martin, Catherine Mastroianni-Douglass, Elizabeth Mastroianni-Douglass, Dalton R Mathews, Kathleen Mayhew, Hero McCarty, Micah V. McFaul, Cale S. McGinnis, Isis C. McGuire, Bryanna E. McKinstry, Isaic S. Meisel, Aníbal Alberto Mejía Granados, Sheahan D. Miller, Claire Evelyn Morgan, Lukas Allen Morris, Daisha M. Morse, Rueben O. Moses, Karl Allen Edward Mosher, Jingxuan Mu, Caid Murphy, Pearl Myers , Matthew Newland, Chinh Minh Nguyen, Aidan Nitsche, Jiwon Noh, Kelsey Claire Noonan, Destiny J. Noyes, Arianna Angel Ohlschwager, Momoka Oka, Matthew S. Overton, Skyler M. Overton, Viktor A. A. Pallasvesa, Xadyn K. Patten, Haley Miranda Perkins, Morgan Grace Pettee, Jonah Emil William Plazek, Zachary Philip Porter, Emma Leigh Powers, Isaiah M. Priest, Garrett Prince, Wessly Solomon Putvain, Jordan Michael Quimby, Phillip Paul Read Santos, Hugo Recio Martin, Kasey Lyle Rice, Ozora Natalie Rice, Macie A. Rivers, Hannah K. Roberts, Hannah J. Rospond, Jodi M. Roy, Yosbhadi Sahawat, Nickolas Anelka Christopher , Caroline Crownover Koppel , Yicheng Shen, Sierra Lorraine Shippee, T’syi Z R Showers, Sequoia R. Simonds, Carson G. Smires, Darwin M. Smyth, Koby Jacob Wenger Sol Cruz, Anthony C. Spaulding, Sophia M. Stark, Holly J Stein, Lucinda Maybelle Storz, Patrick Miles Stowell, Ryan P. Sullivan, Anita Surmacz, Brody J. Taylor, Taylor Marie Tetreault, Lily G. Therrien, Colton R. Thomas, Myles Thornton Sherman, Yuanchun Tian, Mairen Catherine Tierney, Chloe Amelia Tobin, Lauren R. Trombley, Tsz Nga Tsui, Thomas Robert Vaal, Cody J. Van Dine, Ariana W. Varnum, Gracie E. Villareal, Elizabeth Grace Wajda, Kerigan Reilly Wales, Qiyu Wan, Hin Yeung Wang, Christian Charles Weed, Jiahui Wei, Ezra Willson, Zebb Bruce Winot, Spencer Cho Ming Wong, Robert A Wood, Ezekiel L. T. Woodward, Theodore Piers Wright, Qinnuo Wu, Sijia Wu, Ningpu Xiang, Yinuo Xie, Zhengxin Xie, Xinyi Xiong, Jiabin Xu, Ruby L. Yerkes, Mingheng Ying, Luke Yuan Young-Xu, Maria Louise Zambon, Moises Zetune Zaga, Augustus W. Zevon-Powell, Maximus P. Zevon-Powell, Zhihao Zhang, Qianxun Zheng, Siyu Zhou, Zhou Zhou, Qiqi Zhu, Yao Zhuo, Thomas Edward Zschau