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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 7, 2011

At Voorheesville
Graduates take the wheel

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — With the 95 graduates poised to start steering their own lives, the sheer potential in the high school auditorium was palpable, lightening the auditorium’s thick summer air last Friday.

A slideshow featuring each graduate’s senior portrait followed by a childhood picture — some sweet and some silly, but all clearly doted upon — played while family and friends awaited the processional.

The Class of 2011 chose its advisor, long-time physical education teacher Nadine Bassler, to give the address.

She urged her students to find what they are good at and pursue it, to find their “destination.”

Bassler built towards her point by first explaining her “wheel theory of parenting,” which starts with the parents steering the wheel of the ship and slowly ceding control to the child, who first cannot speak, then starts to ask, “Why?” before beginning to assert his or her own opinion.  Eventually, the child reaches up and takes the wheel entirely.

She then told the story of Simon Bridge, who was always smaller than his peers, but had a strong faith in God.  He was also gifted at holding his breath, a skill that he honed through practice.

The 1998 film Simon Bridge was based very loosely on John Irving’s novel A prayer for Owen Meany.

When his school bus crashed into a body of water, she told the graduates, Simon was able to save each child on the bus.  She urged them, as they take their ships to sea, to find their gifts and hone them.

“We are born with a destination,” she said, telling the graduates to find theirs.

Ellen Wagner, the salutatorian, asked her classmates to express compassion.  Inspired by Winston Churchill’s famous sentiment, that history is written by the victors, she acknowledged the successes and opportunities that she and her classmates have had and urged them to turn the spotlight off of themselves and show compassion.

“Compassion also helps us to focus,” she said.

“Part of our history is written here,” she concluded, “but the rest is yet to be discovered.”

Voorheesville’s education has helped to shape each graduate, Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said, paraphrasing John Dewey, who said, “Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”  She concluded that life itself is an education and advised the graduates to remember on bad days that rainbows come after the storm and on good days that they should be savored.

Traditionally a humorous speech or group routine, this year’s “Class Sentiment” was a home video featuring a handful of the graduating seniors reminiscing on a front porch.

“Since we grew up in the age of technology, we decided to make a video,” said Alexander Kundel as he introduced the home movie with classmates Andrea Bollentin, Nicholas Brockley, and Shadma Khan.

In her valedictory address, Michaela Conway expressed gratitude to her family and the school.  To emphasize the influence of the Voorheesville community in the school district, she quoted the Dave Matthews Band, saying, “Are you looking for answers to questions under the stars?  Well, if along the way you are grown weary, you can rest with me until a brighter day and you’re okay.”

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