Finishing strong: Vail Mountain School graduates its Class of 2022

The picture perfect ceremony celebrated community and connection among the classes at the K-12 school

Outgoing Vail Mountain School Head of School Mike Imperi was given the Honorary Class Pin during the 2022 Commencement Friday in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The Vail Mountain School class of 2022 graduated on a perfect spring day Thursday afternoon. The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater was surrounded by blue skies and sunshine, and filled with graduates and their families watching proudly from the stands.

The Vail Mountain School is a K-12 institution, and the close connections and relationships between different grades was highlighted throughout the ceremony. The seniors walked into the theater in their best dresses, suits and blazers, and were met with a line of special people picked by each graduate, known as “honor guards,” waiting with their caps and gowns in hand. As the juniors helped the seniors don their graduation attire, the image of one class helping another move onto the next phase of life set the tone for the whole ceremony.

Vail Mountain School Graduate, Stella Addis, is given her cap and gown before the 2022 graduation Friday in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Later, the seniors were given yellow roses by their kindergarten buddies, who clambered onto the stage dressed like miniature versions of their mentors, a reminder of how far the seniors had come since their first years in school. Senior Emmie Urquhart reflected on the value of the buddy program, and what the seniors had learned from the class of 2034.

“The gift of presence is something we can all take with us,” Urquhart said. “Seniors, remember that excitement for life that your buddy has, and I hope you will find that kindergarten-like glee and presence in everything that you do.”

A cap and gown is ready to be presented at the Vail Mountain School 2022 commencement Friday in Vail. It's a tradition for Vail Mountain School graduation for friends and family to hand the graduates their cap and gown.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Fifth grader Clara Foster stood side-by-side with senior Gaby Gish to deliver a reflection on their Lower School experiences, before the graduating fifth graders were awarded pins that signified their transition into middle school.

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“​​There are parallels to where we are in life,” Gish said. “We are the oldest students in the building, but soon we will be the youngest ones on campus. You are the oldest students in lower school, and soon you will be the youngest in middle school. These transitions are opportunities to build community.”

Many of the speakers spoke in fond remembrance of school trips that are a right of passage for every Vail Mountain School student, such as hut trips with the class and visiting Denver as a group. While each student took away their own memories, it was clear that the shared experiences tied all of them together in a school-wide bond.

Vail Mountain School graduate Rachel Snyder gets a yellow rose and hug from her kindergarten friend during the "Yellow Rose of Friendship" for the 2022 commencement Friday at the Gerald R. Ford Ampitheather in Vail. It's a tradition at VMS for kindergarteners to present roses to the seniors who have hung out with them throughout the year.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Isaac Silvers gave a reflection on Middle School ahead of the eighth grade pin ceremony, and emphasized how as a new kid in school this past year, he had instantly felt embraced and supported by his class.

“We are on the same team,” Silvers said. “If we spend the next four years supporting each other in our strengths and differences, see each other’s plays and cheer each other on, all of us will find our way. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”

Six seniors were honored with individual awards. Stella Addis received the Faculty Award for Citizenship, for her representation of the school’s values as she led the environmental club, her soccer team and was a constant support for her fellow classmates. Emmie Urquhart received the Faculty Award for Service to the School Community for going above and beyond in contributions to the school through her work at the school store, as leader of the prom committee, as a dance instructor and other initiatives to make the school more fun and inclusive.

Frankie Marston and Connor Provencher both received the Faculty Award for Scholar Athlete, for their contributions and dedication in the classroom and on the field. Catie Reihe received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Evidence of Intellectual Curiosity for her commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and deep inquiry.

Lastly, Cami Johnson received the prestigious Sally Johnston award, the highest honor for a graduating senior at Vail Mountain School awarded by faculty vote to the student who most embodies the core values and mission of the school. Johnson received her award from Sally Johnston herself, before delivering the senior address.

“I once found it odd that I would deliver the senior address facing away from my class, but now it seems only natural that they are backing and supporting me at this moment as they always have,” Johnson said. “My hope is that we will never be afraid to return to the memories and moments we share, and that this group will continue to support and love each other as we have all these years.”

Three teachers were celebrated for completing 10 years at Vail Mountain School: technology director Dean Chambers, facilities manager Brian Counselman, and science teacher Steph Lewis. Two teachers, Brett Falk and Ross Sappenfield, were each celebrated for 30 years of teaching at the school. Tanya Boderck, the chair of the math department, received the Oliver Compton Teacher of the Year award in recognition of her tireless efforts to support and educate her students. All of the teachers received standing ovations and heartfelt thank you speeches from the graduating seniors.

Head of school Mike Imperi was also celebrated as an honorary member of the class of 2022, as he is moving on from his position after nine years at the school.

The final group of students to be recognized at the ceremony were the “Thirteeners,” the 12 graduating seniors who had been at Vail Mountain School together since kindergarten.

At the end of the ceremony, the parents and family members of each graduate walked on stage to award them their diplomas, in a symbolic gesture that recognizes how the effort and support of the family is what got each student to that stage, ready to take on all that lies ahead.

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