A one-of-a-kind commencement Following a parade, Green Mountain High graduates 47 in hours-long event: Video and Photo gallery

Parade video by Cynthia Prairie, Cap toss video by Tuckerman Wunderle, edited by Leah M. Cunningham

Photos and story by Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Starting at 1 p.m. under a cloudless sky and ending just before 6 p.m. with darkening clouds on Friday, Green Mountain High’s commencement for the Class of 2020 was one for the record books. Not only was it five hours long and each student graduated individually with parents and other loved ones in tow while carloads of others waited in the parking lot honking horns in lieu of applause, but in the end it was as special as the circumstances that precipitated it.

Welcome to Graduation 2020 under Covid-19

In the hour leading up to the graduation, a skeleton crew of school employees put the finishing touches on the scene.

Special ed teacher Janet Van Alstyne — who like the rest of the faculty would not be attending in person due to Agency of Education guidance for managing under the Covid-19 pandemic — created beautiful flower arrangements from her garden before departing. Crews from local community access television stations SAPA-TV and Okemo Valley TV worked together to cover the moment. Among those preparing for the event was custodian Marie Tyrell, who students voted to receive the Golden Apple Award to recognize the most valuable educator. The award was started by the Class of 2018.

In the distance were the wails of the sirens of Chester and Proctorsville fire engines as well as Chester Police escorting the parade of graduates in decorated cars from the Pinnacle Recreation Area to the American Legion. The elaborate parade was organized by Chester resident Elizabeth Casey.

After brief speeches by Principal Lauren Fierman, senior class advisors Becky Bushey and Brett Mastrangelo and guest speaker Ashley Carafiello, seniors and their families drove – one by one – to the front of the school. Moms and dads pinned flowers to their graduates’ gowns. Those who had earned medals for their work at GM received them, then each of the 42 students who attended the ceremony walked to the stage to pick up their diplomas and other honors they did not receive at the annual awards night, which had been held on Zoom the week before.

Reaching the bottom of the steps from the graduation stage, each was asked by Two Rivers Superintendent Meg Powden to move the tassel atop their cap from right to left, signifying their change in status from student to alumnus.

But apropos of this non-standard ceremony, there was a break in which each graduate had time to have photos taken with parents, siblings and grandparents before the car carrying the next graduate arrived.

Top award winners speak

Seven seniors who were recognized for “Outstanding Academic Achievement” gave brief speeches recognizing the singularity of the event, reminiscing over their time at GM and looking forward.  The seven were Olivia Bernier, Kameron Cummings, Laurel King, Zoe Svec, Rileigh Thomas, Madison Wilson and Angelae Wunderle.

In an emotional and very personal speech, Kameron Cummings wondered if his younger self would be proud of him for the hard work he had put into school and sports and for having the courage to come out and to give this speech.

Laurel King struck a note of hope, quoting writer, activist and historian Rebecca Solnit.

“More than anything else, our Class of 2020 embodies hope. ‘To hope is to gamble. It is to bet on the future. To hope is dangerous, yet it is the opposite of despair. … Hope means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action.'”

The day also had several light moments including when Ozzie-Mae turned her green graduation gown inside out to reveal the lace she had sown on the inside, like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon and when Mastrangelo dived off the stage to retrieve Wunderle’s speech as it was taken by the wind.

After the GM parking lot emptied out, there was another gathering – albeit a covert one – behind the American Legion where 20 graduates tossed their caps into the evening air. And then it was done.

The Class of 2020

The rest of the scene



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Filed Under: 2020 Green Mountain High GraduatesCovid 19 CoverageEducationEducation NewsFeatured

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