Rutland High School ‘Hero’s’ story starts now

Luke Vigtaliano waves the Raider flag as he’s joined by the schools cheerleading team on stage during the Rutland High School graduation ceremony Thursday night at the Spartan Arena. (Robert Layman / Staff Photo)

By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer

The graduates of Rutland High School’s Class of 2018 were advised on how to make their journey heroic.

The commencement speaker for the graduation ceremony last Thursday was class of 2000 graduate Jennifer Stratton. She recalled writing in friends’ yearbooks at her own graduation, using a metallic silver pen to scrawl “Look for my name in the credits.” Now she’s a “look development artist” for Disney. Her name has been in the credits for “Life of Pi” and “Zootopia,” and she is currently working on “Frozen 2.”

“I was going to work in the film industry no matter what,” she said.

Stratton used “The Hero’s Journey,” a storytelling structure identified by Joseph Campbell, to frame her own journey in life and to offer advice to the graduates.

She told them they were about to begin the first phase, “The Call to Adventure.”

“There will be challenges that you can choose to meet head-on with your best foot forward despite your fears, or turn away from and deny their importance,” she said. “Of course, you will encounter successes as well as failures. And there will be those who attempt to put a stop to your efforts, while others are there to lift you up.”

Their greatest opponents, she said, will be their own self doubt.

“But, take comfort in the fact that you will also meet allies and mentors that will aid you,” she said. “Keep your eyes open to recognize them, and be a support for others as well. You may be the difference in someone’s life, just as much as they can be yours. You will be called on many journeys throughout your life, each with their own lesson. By walking your path, you become who you were meant to be, adding value to the world around you.”

The first of the two “class honor” speakers, Sophia Moore-Smith, opened by noting their senior year had been a year of lasts.

“Today is a mixed bag of feelings as we make meaning of all these lasts “ she said. “Soon we will be making meaning of just as many firsts.”

A large chunk of Moore-Smith’s speech was brought to you by the letter “C.”

“Would I be chill enough to cope with these changes?” she wondered. “Will I have enough courage? Who will coach me? I contemplated today’s celebration of our accomplishments, but then became a little bit concerned about the coming costs of college. I anticipated the cheering that will occur at the end of this ceremony, but also the crying during this sometimes challenging chapter.

“I considered the cherished memories I have with you all, many of which I will try to commemorate in this speech, but soon realized that our community will continue to comfort and champion each other for years to come. Though all these feelings may seem contradictory, rest assured that confusion during times of conclusion is quite common. Most critical are the choices we make as we commence this next stage of our lives.”

From there, Moore-Smith recalled her class’s accomplishments, from state championships in a number of sports and a national championship in cheerleading, to helping convince Apple to remove a controversial social networking app, as well as more personal ones like building friendships and encouraging each other.

“Our ideals, values and goals have been shaped by the Rutland High School community,” she said. “We hope to serve others as generously and as well as we have been served.”

Moore-Smith was followed by Connor Solimano, who talked about the importance of appreciation.

“We all too often measure our self-worth by the feats we accomplish rather than the ideals we pursue,” he said, noting that once those feats are achieved, our appreciation for them often fades.

Solimano said it was hard for many of his peers to appreciate Rutland, but he imagined they would all miss it before long.

“Let this milestone in your life be an opportunity to pause for reflection,” he said. “Remember to appreciate everyone who has played a role in your path to success.”

Gordon Dritschilo

Gordon Dritschilo is a Rutland Herald staff writer, Rutland Reader cultural correspondent and food enthusiast.

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