Rice Memorial High School graduated 89 students on Sunday from 22 Vermont towns, nine foreign countries and just one other state, New Jersey.
Lined with athletic championship banners, the gymnasium at the private South Burlington Catholic school brimmed with about 800 of the graduating seniors’ friends and family members.
Sarah Lavoie, mother of graduating senior Davis Lavoie, sat on the edge of the gym with her son’s two grandmothers. Nana Lavoie, one of the two, has attended Rice events like this one since her eldest child enrolled in 1976.
“She’s had four grandkids come through Rice, and he is the last one,” Sarah said.
Davis’s father, Rice graduate and School Board Chairman John Lavoie, sat on stage where he was to confer the graduates’ diplomas. With him was Associate Principal Jim Abrams and commencement speaker Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
Sarah noted that she felt “so excited” and that the graduating class is “a great group of kids.”
Accompanied by Ethan Behr on piano, the Rice band began the familiar first notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” and the graduating seniors filed down the center aisle of the gym two-by-two, clad in green and white regalia.
Besides Vermont, the class of 2019 hails from the state of New Jersey, Canada, China, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden and Uganda.
Rice senior and Student Council President Abigail Jones acted as mistress of ceremonies, introducing each of the speakers including Bishop Coyne, who began with a prayer.
Following the national anthem sung by graduating senior Amaris Callan, Jones welcomed class of 2019 president Lisa McNamara to the stage.
“We are here today, not only looking forward to what is to come, but also looking back and reflecting on the past four years,” she said.
McNamara praised the class for its unity and passion, saying that “to be a student at Rice is to be part of a family,” and “without just one of us, our class of 2019 wouldn’t be the same.”
Rice Principal Lisa Lorenz then spoke to the graduates about upholding the school’s motto: “Love learning, serve others and seek God,” telling them that “this prayer encompasses everything you will need to live the rest of your life, if you wish to live it fully.”
Lorenz presented the Salutatorian Award to Abigail McKeown and the Valedictorian Award to Katelyn Marcoux. Each spoke briefly. McKeown challenged her classmates “to embrace the new,” and Marcoux noted that although high school may have been difficult, the graduates “are better people because of it.”
Lorenz also presented the Commitment to Learning awards to Katelyn Marcoux and Oliver Gignoux; the Matthew Geiger Commitment to Service Awards to Wyatt Cunningham and Abigail Jones; and the Commitment to Faith Awards to Aidan Gavin and Madeleine Parzyck.
Other award winners include: Leo Capone, the Betsy O’Brien Scholarship and Excellence in History Award; Mary Batsie, the Francis M. and Helen E. Martin Scholarship; Oliver Gignoux, the Peter Godfrey Award; Margaret Martell, the Margot Norman Scholarship; Madeleine Parzyck and Megan Rachek, the Susan Valley Scholarship; Leyla Marzbani, the Kristen Charlebois Humanitarian Scholarship; Lisa McNamara, the Excellence in English & Overall Outstanding Female Athlete Awards; Abigail Jacunski, the Excellence in Mathematics Award; Hadley Murphy, the Excellence in Science Award; Anika Mine, the Excellence in Foreign Language Award; Wyatt Cunningham, the Excellence in Digital Media Arts Award; and Ryan Byrnes, the Overall Outstanding Male Athlete Award.
Bishop Coyne then addressed the crowd, encouraging the graduates toward altruism. “I think the wonderful thing about our faith is that it calls us out of our selfishness into a relationship with God and a relationship with others,” he said.
According to school officials, the majority of the class will move on to college, while some will join junior ice hockey leagues, take a gap year or attend trade school as their next step.
“Remember Rice,” remarked Principal Lorenz, “we have witnessed firsthand your accomplishments, but we know you will do so much more.”
Julia Bailey-Wells is a reporter with Community News Service, a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.