Traditions continue at VMS commencement | VailDaily.com

Traditions continue at VMS commencement

Tatum Litowitz and the rest of her kindergarden class run to present yellow roses to the Vail Mountain School senior class during the class of 2016's commencement at the Ford Amphitheatre in Vail on Friday.
Townsend Bessent | Townsend@vaildaily.com |

VAIL — There’s a long Vail Mountain School tradition of students helping each other, and commencement is no exception.

For commencement, juniors brought down the caps and gowns to the 29 waiting seniors about to take that confident walk out of high school and into the rest of their lives. The juniors looked those seniors in the eye, realizing they would take that same walk in a year’s time.

Besides the traditional caps and gowns, this year’s graduates added a small remembrance for a departed friend — each wore a pin in memory of classmate Zeke McTavish Pierce.

At Vail Mountain School each graduate’s family presents their diplomas and turns their tassels. The reasoning is timeless.

“Our success is their success,” said graduate Annie Blakslee.

Upper School students help teach younger students to read, as they were taught so many years ago. And as these seniors did 12 years ago, their kindergarten buddies — the newest members of the school’s family — ran on stage to present each graduate with the Yellow Rose of Friendship.

“Let’s take a moment to look at what we are celebrating today,” said graduate Oliver Pesso, as he welcomed the crowd of family and friends. “We have all worked very hard and have achieved amazing accomplishments throughout high school academically, athletically, in the arts and in many more ways.”

Think of it like this: A mile of highway will take you a mile. A mile of airport runway will take you all around the world.

A Vail Mountain School education is like that.

“I personally can’t wait to see what incredible things my peers will achieve in the coming years,” Pesso said.

The Vail Mountain School tradition spreads across all grades. Besides working with kindergartners, graduates also give certificates to fifth-graders, who are moving up from lower school to middle school.

“Noelle Jacob and I have been a student at Vail Mountain School since kindergarten,” said Allie Gish. “Mr. Garvey has seen eight of us grow from kindergartners to seniors.”

‘Our Greatest Gift’

Along with calculus and a couple languages, these students also know the rules to playing Doctor Dodgeball and Pillow Polo.

“Imagination has been and will continue to be our greatest gift,” said Kaylie Evans.

Graduates plant a tree because, like a good education, trees keep giving fruit. The Class of 2016 planted a Magic Indian Coral Crab Apple tree.

“This blooming crab apple tree could be compared to our senior year,” said Kevin Kalkus. “We have spent hours on homework, stayed focused and the fruit of our hard work has paid off, especially today when we celebrate our accomplishments. This tree not only has an extraordinary name, but also has beautiful flowers in the spring. Like this tree, we too have come into our own this spring.”

Despite these many traditions, or more likely because of them, the graduates will adapt to the changes life brings in the years to come.

“This chapter in our life has come to an end, so I thank every one of you for contributing to our class and being a part of my journey through VMS,” said Carlie Harrison. “I wish you all luck in your future endeavors, although you hardly need it, because I know that each and every one of you, is ready to take on and succeed within the bright future that lies ahead.”