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Cabot School Celebrates Last Class of Covid-19 High Schoolers

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CABOT – Eleven newly minted Cabot School alumni guided the tassels of their graduation caps from right to left Wednesday as they stood under the stage lights and dangling decorative stars of the high school’s performing arts center. All around the building, spilling out the front door into the warm summer evening, more than 250 friends, family and community members cheered them on.

photo by Vanessa Fournier
Cabot High School graduates (from left) Noeshia Shuart, Ila Steinert and Aysha Russell walk with their class into graduation June 5.

“Cabot students are models of strength, resilience and perseverance,” said Principal Rebecca Tatistcheff in the opening lines of her welcome speech for the high school’s graduation that night. “For many of you, your path to graduation has been full of challenges.”

The students in Cabot’s Class of 2024, like most graduating seniors around the world, started their high school careers in the thick of Covid-19 quarantines in 2020. Throughout that school year, Cabot students had to split their learning between masked classroom sessions and virtual lessons online.   

“I still vividly remember March 2020 being so excited for what I interpreted as a three-week vacation from eighth grade,” said Camryn Hoffman, a graduating senior, in her address to the crowd. 

She recounted her feelings of isolation during quarantine. “But those experiences, above all, made us appreciate both what we had before Covid, what stayed with us after and what ultimately brought us closer together,” she said. 

What stayed with Hoffman through it all? The beauty of her community and family, teachers and friends, she said.

Classmate Silas Robbins, who also spoke on stage, pointed to last year’s catastrophic flooding as yet another challenge the graduates bore witness to. The floods last July ravaged towns across the state and dealt $3 million worth of damage to Cabot, according to the select board.   

photo by Vanessa Fournier
The Cabot High School Class of 2024 includes, front (from left) Ila Steinert, Camryn Hoffman and Noeshia Shuart; second row, Rose Houston, Aysha Russell and Riley Burak-Dunham; third row, Dominick Hale, Anthony Harshbarger and Shawn Vorce; fourth row, Chase Alden and Silas Robbins.

Robbins, who became a junior firefighter when he was 15, credited his mentors at the station for helping shape his high school experience. 

“We got through Covid, the flood and so many other challenges,” Robbins said. “Now looking back, I’ve come a long way and learned a great deal, much of which can be attributed to them.”

The crowd cheered when he told them he is now a certified EMT, a title he had only attained a day before after passing a national test, he said.

The graduation address was given by Brian Boyes, who spent 25 years teaching at Cabot before joining Harwood Union Middle and High School as a music teacher last year. At Cabot School, he styled his teaching for students to “create, collaborate and connect” with the projects they produced, he said. He listed off many examples: a 40-minute sci-fi flick, multiple two-act musicals and “production companies” that helped fund and manage tours of the high school’s bands throughout the years.

“The select board recently became aware that Chief Deasy has passed the 1,000-hour mark for volunteer time devoted just to flood recovery,” said board member Karen Larsen in presenting the award. “And he has done this while executing his duties as fire chief, running his electrical business and caring for his family.”

photo by Vanessa Fournier
Cabot graduate Rose Houston is congratulated by her grandparents Sjon and Elysha Welters after the June 5 ceremony.

School leaders also honored two soon-to-be retirees: Mark Tucker, who has served as the superintendent for Caledonia Central Supervisory Union for five years, and Mark Christensen, who has been a bus driver at Cabot School for 13. 

Christensen thanked Peter Ackermann, the school’s former handyman and recipient of the 2014 Vermont custodian of the year award from the state, for encouraging him to become a bus driver in the first place. 

“Pete had asked me if I would take this full-time bus route, which I wasn’t really sure I really wanted to do,” said Christensen. “What I did not anticipate was the connection I’d have with the community.”

The night featured a slew of awards and recognitions for community members. Cabot Fire Department Chief Dean Deasy received the Cabot Community Award for his 30 years of volunteer service in the department.

photo by Vanessa Fournier The Cabot High School Class of 2024 throw their mortarboards up into the air after the June 5 graduation ceremony.

The night ended in a celebration of the class’ achievements, with every graduating senior receiving some form of scholarship. They also each received personal spotlights of their contributions to the community by teachers Alex Modica, Thomas Dunbar and Sonia Scherr. Among them: Dominick Hale’s internship maintaining trees on campus, Shawn Vorce’s leadership role in the robotics club and Rose Houston’s work on the 2024 yearbook. 

Lucia McCallum interns as the Hardwick Gazette's community resilience reporter with support from the Leahy Institute for Rural Partnerships. She works with editors at Community News Service, a University of Vermont journalism program.

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