'Embrace your light'
Long Trail School graduates 30
Readers: This story was updated at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5 to correct that Courtney Callo presented the Debbie Brown Award and received the LTS Citizen of the Year award.
DORSET — Thirty "lifelong learners" said goodbye to Dorset's Long Trail School on May 25 as the independent school hosted its commencement ceremony.
Having been guided by the principles of integrity, kindness of spirit, openness, social responsibility and stewardship during their time at Long Trail, each graduating senior was given the opportunity to speak from the heart. First, however, they'd have to receive parting words from the faculty, staff and community that guided them.
An initial welcoming address was delivered by the chairwoman of Long Trail's Board of Trustees Tami Blanchard, who noted the school's growth in past years and achievements ahead — including a new graphic design lab, science lab, and fieldhouse in the coming academic year.
"These are exceptional feats for a small, independent school here in Southern Vermont, and would never have been possible without the generosity of our school community, including all of you," Blanchard said. "This has been an exceptional year here for us at Long Trail School; we have an amazing group of graduates who sit before us today, we have an incredible faculty and staff, we have a great student body, and a wonderful new head of school."
Blanchard was followed by Head of School Seth Linfield, who began the year as a temporary leader for LTS but went on to earn a full-time tenure. Linfield began by asking graduates to honor their parents with a standing ovation, and urged them to hold true to Long Trail's principles as they embark on their individual journeys.
"When we at LTS build risk taking into our curriculum, it includes being willing to embrace your light and challenge yourself to be great," Linfield said. "At the moment when history calls upon you, and it will, it will always be more comfortable to be mediocre. Run to your responsibilities, and the ideal self that you are each capable of being. Wherever you go, and whatever you do — each with your own particular gifts — may you be a true servant and leader."
LTS director of institutional advancement Courtney Callo then presented the first of four community awards, given in honor of alumnus Debbie Brown to a student ambassador who exemplifies Brown's commitment to "leadership, contagious enthusiasm, loyal friendship, and selfless participation in school and community." This year, that award was bestowed upon senior Hannah Griswold.
"Debbie took great pride in being part of the Long Trail community, and she positively represented, promoted, and supported the mission of Long Trail School," Callen remarked. "Any student who receives this award should be truly honored."
LTS English Department Chair Kim Rizio then took to the stage to award the Dave and Rene Wilson Award, created and voted on by the LTS chapters of the National Honor Society. Awarded to Claire Van Burken, the award recognizes a student who has "created something of lasting significance within the school or community, exhibits an amiable personality and a passionate dedication to the community, is involved in many aspects of the school, [is] well rounded, and has taken advantage of opportunities provided by Long Trail School."
"That's a heavy list," Rizio admitted. "Today's recipient has been a very busy senior. She is caring and giving, always offering to help, and thinking of ways to make people's daily experiences better. She is cheerful and honest."
The Dorothy Pierce Faculty Award was the next to be presented, this time by Art Teacher Hakan Brosnan. Brosnan noted that the award, given in honor of former Dean of Faculty Dorothy Pierce, honors a LTS faculty member who exhibits Pierce's commitment to intellectual curiosity, creative and inspirational teaching, and dedication to educating students. Along with the award, given to Science Teacher Jen Rosenthal, a "generous stipend" is also provided for professional development opportunities.
"This person balances the challenges of family and professional life with grace and a smile," Brosnan said. "Carried along by an energy in perpetual motion that never seems to run out, her eye for detail and approachable demeanor ensure that no student falls through the cracks, and is never afraid to ask for help."
Finally, Director of Upper School Student Life Beth Bove presented the LTS Citizen of the Year award to Callo, who has been a member of the Long Trail community for more than 30 years. The award, according to Bove, is given to a person who has made "a significant contribution to our school community," is an inspirational role model for students, and lives "the Long Trail School core values."
"When I call Courtney over the weekend to see if she wants to go to lunch, most of the time she says to me, 'I can't,' because she's either building a 50-foot float for a Halloween parade, carting a thousand clay slabs to the library, or even skiing 24 hours without stopping at Stratton," Bove said. "All for Long Trail."
Bove also presented an extra surprise to Callen, providing her with a round-trip ticket to visit her children in Utah.
Following a musical performance by students, members of the graduating class prepared to share reflections on their time at LTS, as well as visions for the future. While many thanked family, friends, and teachers, some also touched on the ways that LTS has shaped them as human beings.
"Athletics has been my stability throughout high school —sports have even been known to threaten my academic career from time to time — but I completed the IB program, and for that I am proud of myself," said Levin Coe. "Being able to participate in the pinnacle of high school athletics during my senior year soccer season was my greatest achievement because it was not an individual effort, but rather the work of a team. I am so happy that athletics have such a short, upward trajectory at Long Trail right now, and that I was part of that."
"I was the first and only member of my family to attend Long Trail School, and it was something I was able to call 100 percent my own," said Hannah Griswold. "Throughout my time here I've been able to choose my own education and the path I want to take. I was able to push myself in ways I never thought possible, and all of this was because of the support of my teachers and my friends. Although my time here went way too quickly, I have made some amazing memories with people I'll never forget."
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.