y Tom Haley
PROCTOR — The Proctor community has been a soccer hotbed, so it was not surprising that the six students in the class of 2018 wearing honor cords also wore the maroon and white for the varsity soccer teams — Erica May, Emma Shaw and Grace Tate graduated summa cum laude; and Jacob Bartlett, Arielle Oechslie and Meredith Parker, cum laude.
There is always the other end of the spectrum. When the guest speaker of Saturday’s commencement ceremony, Rusty DeWees, asked if the student with the lowest grade-point average would mind stepping forward, Justyn Suarez owned it.
“This kid’s going places,” DeWees said, gesturing toward Suarez. “You might be working for him.”
Suarez is already off to a good start. DeWees handed him a $20 bill when he stepped up.
DeWees spent 11 years in New York City fashioning an acting career with a list of TV credits including “Law & Order,” “Saturday Night Live,” “All My Children” and “As the World Turns.”
Yet, the boy from Stowe never lost his appreciation for small-town Vermont, and complimented the beauty of Proctor.
He called the town “gorgeous,” and said when you tell people you are from Vermont, they are likely to respond that you are lucky.
“They never say you are lucky if you say ‘Topeka,’” DeWees said. “Don’t ever take that for granted.”
DeWees dispensed advice about working hard.
“Talent will only get you so far. If you have no talent, a lot of will and discipline will get you to the top,” he told the graduates.
He called the graduation speeches that tell students they are going out into the real world “crap,” and said that life gets better from this moment.
He also told the graduates not to worry about what people are thinking about them because they probably aren’t thinking about them at all. “They are usually thinking about themselves,” he said.
Kiersten Williams gave her personal mental snapshot of each one of her classmates, which is something you can do when the class numbers 19.
Oechslie spoke to that small class size when, during her address, she said, “We know everything about everyone. We are a family.”
During her address, Tate said it was difficult to come to grips with the fact there will not be another soccer practice or winter carnival.
Shaw also spoke to how hard it was to be leaving “this building and this town.”
“This is never going to be the same again. We are all going in different directions,” Shaw said, adding that it is both scary and sad, but also exciting.
She added that it was great getting to know this class of students and that she could not wait for the whole world to get to know them, too.
“I can’t wait to see what we become,” Shaw said.
Seeing what members of your class become is part of the excitement of being an alumni community, and the Proctor High School Class of 1968 had that experience.
They were presented with Golden Diplomas, met Friday night for a dinner at the Proctor-Pittsford Country Club, and headed to Harvest Moon for a lunch after the Saturday morning graduation ceremony.
“They look good for 50 years,” DeWees said of the members of the Class of ‘68.
Superintendent Debra Taylor paid tribute to Principal Deborah Rodolfy, who is leaving.
“She truly cared about every child in the school,” Taylor said.
“Our class has had its ups and downs,” said Alexis Peer in her welcoming speech to the audience. “Proctor will always have a place in our hearts.”
And, with the turning of the tassel, a new series of ups and downs was ready to begin.
As Shaw would say, that is both scary and exciting.