Mount Anthony Union High School Class of 2023 graduates 229 seniors


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Dec 22, 2023

Mount Anthony Union High School Class of 2023 graduates 229 seniors

BENNINGTON – A remarkable Class of 2023 got the sendoff it earned for its many

BENNINGTON – A remarkable Class of 2023 got the sendoff it earned for its many accomplishments at Mount Anthony Union High School Friday night, as 229 seniors received their diplomas in front of a packed house at Kates Gym at the regional school district's 57th commencement.

Students and faculty spoke of the challenges the Class of 2023 overcame and the achievements they can take pride in – as students, artists, performers and athletes – and the bonds they forged over four years.

But the teacher whom seniors picked for the faculty address, science teacher Charles Moses, reminded the graduates that their work is only just beginning.

"All of you have regardless of your plans for the future, you have one thing in common: there's only one way to go, and that direction is forward," Moses said.

Greeted with one of the loudest rounds of applause of the evening, Moses followed a theme inspired by his four-year-old daughter's recent question about what people are made of. When he attempted a philosophical answer, he said, his daughter gave him a disapproving look and told him that we are made of guts and bones.

"Change takes courage -- guts if you will," Moses said. "Maybe you have the guts to take a hard class, sing a solo onstage or try out for a team or apply for a job. All of that takes guts. And it's important to keep tying things and not let the fear of failure hold you back."

"You are an amazing work of progress. Understand how amazing you are," he added. "There is and there will always be only one you. You owe yourself an existence filled with happiness. Have the guts to accept change and try new things and have the courage to believe in yourself."

As for the bones? Those are the people who helped and guided you along the way, Moses told graduates.

"Bennington is a place you can call home and a place I hope you are proud to say you are from," Moses said. "This town has solid bones, just like you. And it will always welcome you home when you decide to come back."

Class President Niles Cooper recounted the Class of 2023's accomplishments, from art and music to athletics, and noted that the school's athletic teams would be playing for three more state titles on Saturday. But he also spoke of how the seniors had come together over four years.

"As the final block of school approached, someone had the brilliant idea of having the marching band parade through the halls, blasting ‘The Final Countdown,’" he said. "As I played, I looked back and witnessed something rare. About 80 students were walking together, chanting and cheering, with no frowns in sight. It was a moment of pure joy and unity."

"I lived off of that feeling thinking it was an anomaly. Then when we lit off the fireworks at prom I looked around again and saw the same thing. It was not an anomaly, that's just who we are," he added. "With each passing achievement, our class has proven that we are not simply the class of '23, but rather the class of innovators and trailblazers."

Valedictorian Silas Rella-Neill and Salutatorian Gabriella Giorgi both recalled what it was like to be a freshman at MAU, learning how to be a high school student. Both said it's now strange to realize that it's over, and wished success for their classmates as they move on.

"I remember feeling a little excited, but honestly, mostly anxious and scared," Giorgi said. "Looking back, it feels funny that this building that so many of us have come to call our home, and the people inside, our friends and chosen family, scared us, or at least me, at some point in time. Now, the thought of not walking through these doors every day, not seeing the classmates I’ve grown to call my friends, and the teachers who have taught me more than I could thank them for is what is scary."

Rella-Neill also remembered what it was like to be a high school student in a pandemic.

"We all had to deal with being sent home mid March because of COVID, thinking that we would return in a week or two, only to have those weeks turn into almost a year. Then we had to grow re-accustomed to coming back into school, ready to sit behind a desk again, and actually having to pay attention," he said. "We have hardly had a traditional path through high school but that hasn't prevented us from graduating today. "

Principal Tim Payne recounted the things he learned and experienced from the Class of 2023 – from championships in football and Nordic skiing to amazing performances during the school's production of "Chicago" to 100s of hours of community service performed by students.

He also asked for a moment of silence to remember Greta Bendick, a Class of 2023 student who died of cancer in 2019 at 14. "She had an amazing sense of humor. She was academically gifted and had an optimistic view on life," Payne said. "She is always in our hearts."

The threat of rain forced the ceremony inside Kates Gym, limiting attendees to three per student. Family and friends filled the bleachers as well as plastic chairs behind the graduates on the gym floor, and an overflow crowd watched the ceremony in the auditorium. Some came prepared for the resulting warmth, with fans made with cardboard cutouts of their graduates’ faces.

Superintendent James Culkeen capped the ceremony with the official declaration, leading students to flip their tassels from right to left – and then throw their creatively decorated hats in the air.

The graduates:

Andrew Abdul-Haqq

Adam Agresta

Caleb Aiken

Jahvae Ashmeade

*Lauren Austin

Ashton Baker

*Quinn Barbeau

Connor Barrett

Caedance Bartholdi

Brock Bascom

Noah Bassler

Rien Bates

Daniel Becker

Austin Belville

*Hope Benner

Agustus Bennett

Sebastian Bentley

Collin Bevin

Rachel Bibens

Braeden Billert

Cale Bisson

Luke Bleau

Naomi Bolster

Abriel Bossong

Caleb Bourn

*Jade Boynton

*McKenna Brighton

Alex Brown

Crystal Brownell

Karson Buell

Michael Burdick

Alec Burgess

Cherylynn Burgess

William Burgess

Jasmine Bushee

Jillian Bushee

Samuel Bushee

Kyleigh Campbell

*Alison Cancellieri

Brianna Carey

*Elyssa Champagne

Kollin Chapman

Colin Chellis

Brian Clancy

Jadyn Clark

Skylar Clark

Alexander Cluett

*Skye Colvin

*Natalie Conroy

Nathan Conroy

Kieran Coope

Aidan Cote

Johnathan Crilly

Madisyn Crossman

Joseph Cuccuini

Areanna Cummings

Karleigh Cunningham

*Teagan Currier

Eian Curtis

Olin Daniels

Randolph Dennison

Natalie Denue

Matthew Dupuis

*Evan Eggsware

Luke Eggsware

Ava Elmer

*Emily Elmer

Russell Endres

McKenna Ferris

Elise Fischer

Schylar Francis

Henry Frechette

Shelby Galindo

McKaylei Galipeau

Brodie Gallant

*Gwendolyn Gardner

*Emily Gates

Megan Gates

*Gabriella Giorgi

Bailey Gordon

*Caleigh Gordon

Colby Granger

Gabriel Granger

Haley Green

Nathaniel Greenslet

Tug Greenslet

Taylor Grogan

Arial Guile

Connor Hannan

Holden Harrington

Carson Herzfeld

Christopher Hester

Taylor Hill

* Devin Hogan

Aidan Houston

Chloe Howard

Thomas Hughes

James Hunt

JamieLee Hunt

Jenna Hunter

*Devon Hurley

*Kyra Hurley

Regan Hurley

Wesley Hurley

Naomi Ivey

Andrew Jaarsma

Tyler Jaenecke

*Emma Jansch

David Janz

Spencer Jarvis

*Asa Jelley

Aaron Johnson

lan Johnson

Seth Johnson

*Raegan Joly

Jordan Jones

Connar Joy

Brodie Julius

Dominic Kelly

Carter King

*Grace Kobelia

Asa Kobik

Ronald Kozloski

Benjamin Krawczyk

*Eli LaBatt

Riley Lacroix

Sophia LaCroix

David Lafontaine

*Sawyer Lampron

Marley Lane

Ezmia Lapre

Kari LaTour

Stellar Lavoie

Lucas Lincourt

*Nathan Lincourt

*Allexys Longtin

Raven Luce

Savannah Lyttle

Sean MacDonald

Camden Madison

*Mia Maroney

William Mayer

Aleczander Maynard

Anthony Mazza

Brandon Mazza

Maddison McDonald

Jordan McIntire

*Peter McKenna

Javell Mejias

Jocelyn Millette

Johnathan Miner

Abbie Morse

Aiden Moscarello

Ayman Naser

Cooper Niles

*Deris O'Malley

Dominik Oakes

*Tara Oakes

Travis Oldham

Isela Otero

Dhruva Patel

Alexander Perez

Emily Perry

*Elias Poling

Kooper Potter

Justice Pratt

Portia Pratt

Kyrea Predel

Amelia Preston

Jeffery Pulver

Landen Quackenbush

Lance Ramos

Jadyn Randolph

Gavin Rawson

*Silas Rella-Neill

Matthew Reynolds

Matthew Robinson

Benjamin Roche

Brayden Rogers:

Sebastian Romero

Donald Roy

Ethan Russell

Muqadasa Sadat

Sayd Sadat

Oliver Salazar

Arriell Santos

Emanuel Saucedo

Carter Saunders

*Sophie Sausville

Kyra Schichtl

*Gavin Schnoop

Molly Shippee

Avery Siclari

Myah Simpson

Kianna Smith

Leah Smith

Michael Smith

*Hezekiah Snide

Morgan Song

Timothy Sparks

Ryan Squiers

Joshua Squiers-Boyd

John Steadman

Autumn Stevens

Alivia Stewart

Peyton Stratton

Octavia Surdam

Michael Suzumu

Julian Sweet

Axle Teeple

Makenna Thibodeau

Samuel Umphlett

Maple Van Orden

Kylah Vanaman

Bryce VanVoorhis

Madison Washburn

lan Webster

*Anja Wellspeak

Emily White

lan White

Vaughn White

Aaron Whitman

Brianna Wilder

Christopher Wilder

Jason Wilson

Amber Woods

Joshua Worthington

Curtis Wright

Elijah Wright-Cancellieri

* -- High Honors / Pro Merito

2023 Vermont Proficiency-Based Diploma Program

Daria Bakhareva

Scott Burdick Jr.

Jeremiah Hodgeman

Anna Roche

Brad Tifft

Greg Sukiennik is Northshire editor for Vermont News & Media. Reach him at [email protected].

Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.

The graduates: 2023 Vermont Proficiency-Based Diploma Program