Thoughts on VAHS graduation this past Sunday

On Sunday we said congratulations to our newest graduates from Verona Area High School.  While I have never been to a graduation ceremony at VAHS before, I was very excited to participate as a member of the School Board.  The event was held at EPIC in their auditorium and we cannot thank them enough for their support of our school district.  With well over 1000 people in attendance, the auditorium serves as a nice setting for the graduation program.    I did get lost in the parking garage on the way out but that is a story for another day.

The ceremony was delayed by roughly 20 minutes due to a log jam of traffic arriving for the intended 1 p.m. start time.  Once it did start, I commend the band members who played Pomp and Circumstance for a little over 20 minutes until all graduates had proceeded in to their seats.  Listening to the music it reminded me of graduation 24 years ago at my alma mater, although our marching in only took 5 minutes.

After all the soon to be graduates were seated, we had some welcoming comments from Principal Pam Hammen.  She and her entire staff need to be commended on the work they do to ensure graduation goes as smooth as it did.   I think the highlight of the day though was the presence of Verona’s oldest living graduate, Martha Zingg Lound.  Martha graduated from Verona High School in 1929.  Ken Behnke who is on the board with me is her grandnephew (sorry if I have that wrong).   After talking with her, Ken prepared some comments that he shared on her behalf with those in attendance.  First, let me say that it was so truly heartwarming to hear the applause and response people provided for Ms. Lound.   In fact, at one point I was thinking that it sounded like a state of the Union address with the frequent applause breaks.  Ms. Lound provided an amazing story for our graduates to be inspired by.   The house I live in today was farm land just across the street from the farm house she grew up in.  There were only 12 in her graduating class.  Many students didn’t finish school as they were called home to help on the farm or to go to work in the factories.  She went on to achieve a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree through UW-Madison.  She was born before television, limited radio, and cars were just coming onto the scene.  She saw our country go through multiple wars, survive the civil rights movement, and securing women’s right to vote.  She has even navigated the technological revolution.  As Ken noted, she does send email.  Her presence was an inspiration for all and it was easy to see our graduates understood that.

I was truly inspired by her presence.  However, it wasn’t just her.  It was also our graduates.  Ms. Lound who was in a wheelchair was at the edge of the stage where the graduates departed after getting their diplomas.  A good number of our graduates took time to stop by her, shake her hand, say thank you for being there, and wished her well.  I think that just shows the high quality kids we are blessed with.  I also found it interesting that it wasn’t just one type of kid that stopped.  It wasn’t just honor roll kids, or students leaders, rather it was a diverse representation of the student body.  I think it made me feel good about the community we have and showed me the hope for our future to treat each other with respect and dignity.  There are those who worry about our graduates each year wondering if they were up for the task.   What I saw playing out on the stage beside me affirmed that these young people were indeed ready.  It made me feel proud and I hope that all of the parents and families are equally proud.

I felt very fortunate to be on stage representing our School Board.  I felt exceptionally happy to be able to shake hands with graduates upon them receiving their diplomas.  I am very fortunate to have my position on the school board and I can’t thank you enough for providing me that opportunity.

With all graduations there is a bit of sadness.  We have made it to the end of another year.  With the end of that year we also need to say goodbye to a number of teachers and support staff that make our schools great.  We say goodbye to 29 individuals who have touched students’ lives and have helped contribute to our educational community.  While they may be replaced in their role, they will never be forgotten.  Thank you to those teachers and staff for their commitment to Verona schools.

Finally, I would take heat from my kids if I didn’t say congratulations to our neighbor Amanda Bird.  She graduated Sunday and has spent the better part of the past three or four years as our go to babysitter.  She is staying local attending UW-Madison in the fall, but we fear her babysitting days may soon be behind her.  She is a great kid, from a great family.  We have every confidence in her as she pursues her dreams.  We wish her only the best.  And we may need to take advantage of her babysitting services one or two more times before September. 🙂

So to our recent graduates and our soon to be retired staff best wishes to you and god bless.

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About johnmmcculley

Father of three, currently serving in my first term on the Verona Area School Board. Hoping to help foster more open discussions about the future of education in my community.
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