The Clayton A. Bouton Class of 2018: Built on ‘character’

The Enterprise – Michael Koff

So long: The 109 graduates of the Clayton A. Bouton Class of 2018 will be spread across 17 states at 43 colleges and universities next year.  

 

VOORHEESVILLE – Around 7 p.m., on June 22, the lights in the performing arts center of Clayton A. Bouton High School were extinguished and music, older than the graduating students, filled the auditorium, to accompany a slideshow of student memories that was projected onto a big screen at the front of the theater.

As the montage scrolled to an end, teachers and administrators followed the Capital Region Celtic Pipe Band and a thunder of drums and bagpipes into the hall.

Next, the Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Christopher Jantson, struck up “Pomp and Circumstance,” as the graduating Class of 2018, cloaked in purple, filed in the performing arts center and took its seats on stage. Immediately, the phones of parents and grandparents – and whoever else was lucky enough to snag a ticket in the packed hall – shot up to snap photos of a major milestone in their children’s lives.

Nadine Bassler – the senior class adviser; dean of students; and, for 37 years, a physical education teacher in the district – was the commencement guest speaker. She retired this year.

Bassler offered a tongue-in-cheek summary of a recently released report from the World Health Organization.

“Getting to the stage,” she said, “was not without its challenges.”

“I’m sure many of you are familiar with the term ‘senioritis.’ What you may not be aware of, is that in recent months the World Health Organization has labeled senioritis as a viable mental illness,” Bassler said, as the packed theater laughed gleefully.

She said that the organization is currently researching treatments for an affliction that impacts 100-percent of seniors.

She then reviewed the signs and symptoms: “Teachers are no longer teaching at the high school or giving homework,” is something a student afflicted with senioritis might say. “This is usually followed up by the classic protest, ‘Why do we even have to go to school; it’s not like we are doing anything anyways.’”

“There are extreme cases that have been documented where students have been in school for an entire eight-hour day and not been to one class,” she said.

Bassler then warned parents that they will want to take pre-emptive action if they see their senior filling up 150 water balloons or if they find school blueprints with all the security cameras marked off.

She then struck a sincere tone and said: “The pool of talent in this senior class includes philosophers, musicians, writers, artists, actors, athletes, builders, adventurers, and future leaders. They are shining examples of young adults who are ready to become part of the workforce, military service, and college campuses.”

‘The trick to being happy’

Derek Brower, the Class of 2018 salutatorian, asked the hall to take a moment and appreciate all that life has to offer.  

“I think that I can say with a fair amount of confidence, that for everyone here tonight, this experience is just as odd and surreal to anyone of us as it is for me. It always seem that graduation was a distant goal, never close, never going to actually happen. We were always kids and it was always so far away, but here we are.”

Each of the graduates, Brower said, had a plan; and a set of goals with which to achieve that plan.

“Goals are good; they help to provide focus for what we want to do,” he said. “It is a lot easier to do something when a goal is set rather than trying to do something for the sake of doing it.

“However,” he said, “what if there is more than just these goals?

“Goals give you a long-term plan … but what if there’s more?

“What if there is also the present and just the moment?

“If our goals are all we think about, then it it easy to fall into the mindset: I’ll be happy when I get this promotion, or the next pay raise, or when next year comes around.

“But when that comes around, we realize that it’s not what we thought it would be and it leaves us disappointed. And, in our disappointment, we decide what the next goal will be, that that is what will make us happy – but that isn't the trick.

“So what is the trick to being happy?

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present,” Brower said, quoting Jim Rohn, an author and motivational speaker.

“If you take time to step back, to think, to slow down and appreciate life and everything around you,” he said, “you don’t lose that time; instead, you appreciate all that is good in your life at any given moment.

“If you are always looking for that little reason to be happy, you will always be happy, because you will find it.”

‘Outstanding character’

Stephanie Erickson, Clayton A. Bouton’s valedictorian, told the crowd, “Voorheesville is an extremely special place” and she had been “extremely lucky to have grown up here.”

She said that the closeness of the senior class became evident throughout its spirit-week activities, and, that on Senior Skip Day, nearly every senior showed up to the picnic.

She recounted the ups and downs of high school; staying up late to study, and how she felt comfortable leaving her things in an unlocked locker and how students from other schools are always dumbfounded when they hear her say that.

Superintendent Brian Hunt said that there are are certainly many accomplishments that could be celebrated by the group: “From high academic achievement, to outstanding artistic accomplishments, to thrilling athletic performances, to inspiring community service.”

What Hunt wanted to focus on, he said, is what he believed, was the underlying component that had led to all of the accomplishment and distinction: Character.

“The Class of 2018 has so many examples of outstanding character: compassion, hard work, empathy, honesty, and heart are your hallmarks,” he said. “These characteristics will continue to guide and define you as you move into the next phase of your lives.”

Hunt told the students that they would be missed, but said that “sending more compassionate, hard-working, and honest young people into the world is a great honor for us.

“I think this group of graduates proves that being good leads to being great.”

And, in the end, 109 students from the Clayton A. Bouton Class of 2018 walked across the stage, received their diploma, ready for what was next.