About 1,000 spectators whooped and cheered as nearly 100 graduating seniors from Fair Haven Union High School received their diplomas at Castleton University’s outdoor pavilion Thursday evening.
Fair Haven Union was thrust into the national spotlight in February when police announced an alleged shooting threat by former student Jack Sawyer.
But as the school band played Pomp and Circumstance, and the senior class marched in wearing royal blue caps and gowns, much of the past year’s tension was forgotten — at least for a while.
Most of the speakers avoided talking about the threat, but valedictorian and class president Gabrielle Ochs reminded her classmates how well they had risen above the situation.
“Our senior year was not the easiest, but we got through it," admitted Ochs. "We thought the fall was rough, and then in February, it got harder. Even with these hard times, we did not let this year define or discourage us."
"Instead," she said, "we focused on our sports teams, our clubs, our prom and our class trip.”
Salutatorian Estelle Kearns, thanked her family for the many lessons they taught her, while Reilly Howard, president of 2017’s graduating class, spoke of everyday adversity and the importance of realizing one can overcome life's tough knocks.
School officials significantly beefed up security at Thursday night’s celebration with extra police officers and two bomb sniffing dogs.
Cpl. Scott Alkinburgh, who served as Fair Haven Union’s School Resource Officer, but now works for the Castleton Police Department said, “We took extra precautions, yes, because we want people to come here and relax and enjoy this moment.”
Senior Katelyn Snow was taking that to heart and was all smiles as she walked out with her diploma and posed for pictures with her friends.
"It’s amazing! I feel on top of the world right now," gushed Snow. "Yes it's been a tough year, but that just makes it that much better that everyone showed up. It’s just a great night."
Correction 11:58 a.m. 06/16/18 An ealier version of this story omitted the word "alleged" in describing the shooting threat.