The hills were alive Saturday with the sound of cowbells.

On a blustery cold June day at the base of Vermont’s highest peak, 64 Stowe High School seniors, one by one, made their way to a makeshift dais and received their diplomas. They were cheered on by a chorus of honking cars and trucks parked several feet apart as if they were at a drive-in movie.

The event was held at Stowe Mountain Resort, and graduates and their families received Raider green cowbells to accompany their car horns. Class president Max McKenna, at one point in his speech, called for “a round of cowbells.”

Imagine you’re running the mile in a high school track meet — actually, first imagine there’s a spring sports season.

The first three laps of the race are going great, good pace, still plenty left in the tank. But then suddenly, in the last quarter-mile, someone places the hurdles willy-nilly onto the track, and someone else re-directs the throwing events so javelins, discuses and 12-pound shot are raining down on you. And the spectators have all disappeared and everyone in the race is spaced out at least 6 feet apart so you have no idea what kind of time you’ll post when you get to the finish line.

Welcome to senior year, 2020.

The Stowe High graduates made it to the finish line Saturday, capping the oddest school year in memory, when the global coronavirus forced students and teachers to complete the final three months of the school year quickly adapting to a remote learning environment.

In a fairly quick ceremony, the three student speakers and the principal all referred to COVID-19 and its effects on the school year.

McKenna noted that just graduating during a pandemic doesn’t make a class special; what’s special is the perseverance his classmates show.

Principal Gretchen Muller ticked off a list of traditional senior year activities that had to be sacrificed — concerts, prom, class trips, sporting events.

“The things you missed have shaped you into tougher individuals,” Muller said. She said that toughness will come in handy, because their generation will be called to step up and lead.

Valedictorian Andrea Jackman and salutatorian Bjorn Westervelt didn’t stop with coronavirus as a challenge the class of 2020 has faced over the years.

Jackman cited the “radical new grading system” known as proficiency-based learning, and the departure of the school’s principal before the end of last school year. Westervelt went even further, noting the class has had three principals in four years of high school.

McKenna summed it up: “It is nothing short of remarkable, what we’ve accomplished.”

•••

The graduating seniors at Stowe High School

Charles Graham Alekson, Michael Steel Arczynski, GianCarlo Tomaso Biondi, Raimon Bleda-Vilalta, Bella Skye Braverman, Ethan William Brown, Mackenzie Alberta Bruce.

Esberto Erik Cardenas, Alina Chmura, Robert Park Crist, Emily Elizabeth Croes, Rachel Anne Cunningham, Joel Michael Davidson, Tobias J. Dodge, Grace Frances Dolan.

Anne Mcgetrick Eagan, Atticus Ames Eiden, Kaiya Alexis Gants, Ty West Garon, Maxwell Slade Gentle, Catherine Rose Gianni, Kobe Hogan, Johan O. Holtenman, Hamish Andrew Hunter.

Andrea Sarah Jackman, Alexis Xanthe James, Katherine Grace Kauffman, Lillian Rae Keller, Rowan Marcus Keller, Forest Sawyer Laporte, Abigail Anne Lehmann, Sage Bailey Lively, Shea Elizabeth Lyden.

Jack Frederick MacDonald, Shane Davis Malcolm, Isabel Frances Masi, Ashley Godfrey McHugh, Maxwell Thomas McKenna, William Walter McKibbin, Kathryn Jane Meyer, Nicholas Anton Mitchell, Emily Wren Murphy, Matthew Ryan Nicolai.

Oliver Marc Randolph Palmer, Oliver Nicholas Biddle Paumgarten, Brennan Scott Raymond, Alexander Dolan Reichelt, Lola May Richards, Kathryn Elizabeth Riley, Patrick Anthony Roling, Trey Seeger Rosamilia, Rashane O. Russell, Roshawn J. Russell.

Jamaica Mae Pajarillaga Samiling, Damion Santamore, Gavin Reece Schleupner, Jackson Theodore Seivwright, Jacob Daniel Shapiro, Haley Spencer, Ethan Thomas Stewart, Alexander David Tilgner, Jacob Daniel Touchette, Faith Anna Mercedes Walsh, Bjorn William Westervelt.

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