By Jennie Mull, contributing writer.
On a sunny day under a tent, 121 diplomas were handed out to Harwood graduates, along with maple candy and a yellow sunflower.
In the past year, students went from attending Harwood in-person one day a week in the fall, to two days a week, then to four days a week in April, said graduate Ingrid Lackey-Howell. June 12, graduation day, marked the ending of an academic year unlike any other, as students grappled with the reality of a once-in-a-century pandemic.
The flowers were provided by Vee’s Flowers & Garden, according to the graduation program. Yellow and gold are the Harwood school colors.
Siena Mazer, a 2021 graduate from Harwood Union High School, spent seven days per week working at The Sweet Spot in Waitsfield during the shorter school week.
“Graduation didn't feel very real to me because I was barely in school this year,” said Mazer.
Lackey-Howell, a former Valley Reporter intern and a Harwood grad attending Smith College in the fall, said she’s been with some of her classmates for over a decade.
“I've known some of these kids for, you know, 15 years,” she said.
Lackey-Howell and her fellow masked graduates sat in two sections. Two guests per person were allowed to sit under the tent, while the rest sat outside.
A livestream played the nearly two-hour event on YouTube where about 650 people watched online. In the ceremony introduction, the Vermont bagpiper Ben Montross, the Harwood Jazz Band, and the Harwood chorus “I Cantori” performed. Three seniors gave speeches: Connor McCarty, Siena Mazer and Sage Devereux.
McCarty relayed two anecdotes from Harwood where he pulled the fire alarm as a toddler and played Shrek in a musical.
“If you stay comfortable for too long, you might lose an opportunity to grow and show that you’re not the same person from high school,” said McCarty in his speech.
Afterwards McCarty said, “Oh yeah, I was shaking like crazy.”
All of the speakers received a standing ovation from the graduates. Kathy Cadwell, a Harwood teacher retiring after 40 years, gave the main commencement speech.
“Even if you forget everything else I have said, don't forget this one thing. Thank the people in your life who have helped you get to this moment,” said Cadwell.
“My deepest thanks today go to you, the class of 2021 -- my students -- thank you for being my teachers,” said Cadwell. Co-principal Laurie Greenberg closed out the graduation.
Siena Mazer, who is headed to Fordham University in Fall 2021, said, “I just didn't expect it all to end so fast and especially these last few months.”
The students that began their senior year in the middle of a pandemic, graduated high school two days before all state COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in Vermont.
The recorded graduation ceremony is available on YouTube.
Editor’s note: Mull is a student at the University of Vermont and a reporter for the Community News Service, a student-powered partnership with local community newspapers.