VAIL - Twenty-four Vail Mountain School seniors celebrated the end of their childhood education Friday evening, speaking words of wisdom well beyond their years both to each other and to their soon-to-be former schoolmates in the grades below.
As these graduates look forward to what's next in life, they recognized Vail Mountain School for arming them with an education that will send them into college with confidence and pride. They also recognized the challenges they have overcome and also those that lay ahead.
Emily Bandoni dedicated the ceremony to courage, something she said the Vail Mountain School community had shown during the 2011-12 school year.
The students suffered a loss this past year when school librarian Lorraine Haslee passed away from illness and classmate Taft Conlin died in an avalanche on Vail
"It took a different kind of courage for our school to remain unified during a time of mourning after losing two different, and yet two very important, vibrant members of our community," Bandoni said. "We, being the senior class, the oldest students in the school, felt a new responsibility."
It was this tight-knit class of 24 students that pressed on and provided leadership for the younger students. That leadership is what makes this class and the message they delivered Friday so special.
Maddie Peck started at Vail Mountain School as a kindergartner in 1999. Since then, she has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience that she hoped would rub off on the fifth-graders whom she honored Friday with their certificates of promotion into middle school.
"From kindergarten to fifth grade, you mastered more of the basics and built more of the foundation for your education than you will during the rest of your time in school," Peck told the fifth-graders. "That is an incredible feat, and you should be proud of yourselves, but as you look back to the good times and the success, I want you to also look
Peck's words helped set the tone for an evening that was all about looking forward, scattered with some moments of looking back, too.
For the seniors, they were looking back on childhood, youth and their days as students at the intimate Vail Mountain School. As they watched the fifth-grade students graduate into middle school and the eighth-grade students graduate into upper school, they could relate because they had been there before.
But as the ceremony focused back on their graduation - a graduation that will send each of them to colleges all around the country and to Mexico - they could only guess what would be in store for them in the years to come.
The college preparatory curriculum they can now put behind them has done more than prepare them for their academic futures, it has also prepared them for uncertainties in life.
Senior address speaker Sean McKeever told his fellow graduates that 13 years of education "will not keep us afloat for the rest of our lives."
"Even tacking another four years of college onto our education will not stop this entropy of knowledge," McKeever said. "But, after much deliberation, I have found a cure - we must seek to learn and to grow every day for the rest of our lives."
McKeever, who stands at 6 feet 5 inches, told his classmates that growing, something that is common to everyone in the world, isn't as easy as it looks.
"That's why each one of us must do uncommon things," McKeever said. "... Along the way, we will achieve successes, we will face failures, we will unearth happiness and we will encounter sadness. But, we are the grand architects of our own exploration - not a single one of the other 7 billion people on Earth will do what we have done and what we will do."
McKeever's words echoed Bandoni's earlier dedication of courage.
Courage, individualism, intelligence and greatness - these are the things the 2012 Vail Mountain School class wants to be remembered by, and by the sounds of the words of wisdom spoken Friday, they're on the right track.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.