Rutland High School graduates 259 students
By SARAH HINCKLEY Herald Staff | June 13,2007
CASSANDRA HOTALING / RUTLAND HERALD
Rutland High School students cheer after graduating Tuesday evening at the Rutland Regional Fieldhouse.
There were five items commencement speaker Andy Cunningham brought to graduation, and with each of them came a philosophy for Rutland High School's graduating class.
Macaroni and cheese, a pair of chopsticks, a baseball, his Vermont drivers license and a hospital bill made up Cunningham's graduation kit. His presentation was inspired by rock star Bono, who said the greatest challenge of our time is the shortage of storytellers.
Cunningham graduated from Rutland High School three years ago and went on to Duke University where he is double-majoring in Chinese and international relations. Recently, Cunningham co-founded a school in Kenya where girls can earn their secondary education, and studied the past semester in the southern Chinese city of Kunming.
In all, 259 students graduated, but not all attended Tuesday's ceremony.
In front of the 173 graduates and a full Rutland Regional Fieldhouse, Cunningham told the stories surrounding the items in his kit. They were the five stories he chose to share from the three years since he graduated from the high school.
The baseball was to symbolize a sixth-grade boy in New Orleans, who, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, committed to building a baseball field, one shovelful at a time. Cunningham said graduates should decide if they are involved or committed when choosing to begin something.
The hospital bill was from a bout of food poisoning, dehydration and heat stroke that landed him in a hospital in Calcutta, India. When a heart monitor malfunctioned and flat-lined, Cunningham asked the doctor about his condition. With a chuckle and a knock on the machine from the doctor, the monitor started to beep again.
"Literally, his humor brought me back to life," Cunningham said. The doctor then told him, "A laugh is an instant vacation."
The macaroni and cheese was a meal shared at a Bronx, N.Y., shelter. A man there told Cunningham a story of the four-foot, seven-inch nun who carried him on her back eight blocks after he'd been shot. Above the door of the shelter was a Mother Theresa quote, "Give until it hurts."
The chopsticks were symbolic of a man in China who began an outreach organization to educate and help those afflicted with AIDS. The government has quashed public speaking on the subject.
"So many times we are told to think before we act," Cunningham said. "What we really want to say is think, but don't forget to act."
And lastly he showed his license, because Cunningham was baffled that the class had asked him to speak.
It is a Rutland High School tradition to ask a former graduate to come back and impart wisdom. Cunningham didn't think he was old enough.
"You're old enough now to start something big," he told the graduates. "You're old enough, old enough to start your story today and come back and share it."
Salutatorian Kyle Trombley used a quote to tell his classmates to dream big.
"When leaving our marks on the world, just remember the marks we have already left on each other," he said.
Valedictorian Emily Scherer used an entertainment analogy throughout her speech. Scherer referred to television shows and the stories students create in their own minds and lives.
"For us it's an episode we just can't miss," she said. And graduation is no different. "It can be our season finale with a short hiatus … or it can be our series finale. We must remember, if we don't embrace the present, the future becomes irrelevant."
There were 71 graduates of the class of 1957 who were at the ceremony to receive their golden diplomas.
Contact Sarah Hinckley at email@example.com.