With thunder crackling outdoors and skies blackening, the inmates got out of prison Sunday in Sun Valley.
Thirty seniors from what Community School headmaster Jon Maksik called "a remarkably accomplished and diverse class" laughed heartily when their graduation ceremony in the school gym was compared to a changing of status from prisoners to parolees.
Commencement speaker Mark Salzman, starting off on a wonderfully comic speech, admitted that he had mistakenly brought a speech that he was supposed to deliver at a juvenile detention center.
Salzman forged ahead anyway, wherever possible plugging in the words Community School students instead of prisoners.
Like Mad Libs, Salzman turned up funny phrases like, "Most of you have been in juvenile prison for as long as you can remember," or, when referring to the future, "What will happen to me if I don't get into the adult prison of my choice? Will my life be ruined?"
The award-winning author of "Iron and Silk" played it straight in much of his speech, at one point advising the now-attentive students that "your own life, your moment-to-moment experience in this world, is your greatest teacher."
Salzman's humor was welcome, because pure emotion and teary farewells dominated many of the speeches during the 29th graduation of the independent school in Sun Valley.
Maksik supplied much of the emotion with his opening remarks to the ceremony and his recollections of each student in the closing moments before the recessional.
"This class is most notable for its diversity and the way that diversity is embraced," Maksik said. "These particular young men and women embody every ideal I've ever hoped for in this school."
A highlight of the two-hour-and-33-minute ceremony were senior reflections, an opportunity for each graduate to step up to the podium and offer thanks to people who made his or her education possible.
One senior, Lexie Praggastis, addressed classmates with her usual positive approach, saying, "Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia and we still have tonight."
Senior speakers were Simone Weisz and Tyner Pesch. Weisz said, "This group of young adults has formed a very special bond with each other. Added Pesch, "We work so well as a class and as a family because we are all individuals."
Graduating Sunday were Ashley Alfs, Michelle Bahan, Charlie Baser, A.J Beesley, Sarah Betts, Reed Boeger, Alice Bynum, Caitlin Cairncross, Scarlet Caldwell, Carina Covella, Alexander Dembergh, Cassidy Doucette, Andrew Durtschi and Blake Ellis;
Also, Robert Flanigan, Jacqueline Goddard, Kyle Koski, Tyler Martin, John McNeal, Christopher Nielson, Gussi Ochi, Tyner Pesch, Robert Peterson, Lexie Praggastis, Delamon Rego, Ben Roth, Hunter Smith, Tesla Teitge, Connor Wade and Simone Weisz.
Tyler Martin and Charlie Baser made the Yearbook Dedication—the only graduation award decided by the student body—to English teacher Phil Huss. Accepting the honor, Huss said about teaching, "It's one of the most wonderful feelings in the world to do what you love to do and find it's useful to others."
As its senior gift, the Class of 2005, represented by Ashley Alfs and Scarlet Caldwell, gave a $3,000 endowment intended to fund $500 annual scholarships to be chosen by the Upper School faculty.
Maksik also paid tribute to his wife, retiring elementary school director Leslie Maksik, for her 17 years of work.
Awards and more
Nearly all award winners and scholarship recipients announced Sunday were chosen by The Community School faculty, including the Beaupre Achievement Award.
The Beaupre Award, the school's oldest honor, goes to seniors who maintain high standards of scholarship, leadership, citizenship and athletic achievement. This year's recipient was Lexie Praggastis.
Maksik announced Connor Wade as the 2005 Headmaster's Award winner. The award picked by Maksik goes to the sophomore, junior or senior who made a significant difference in school life.
Senior Project honors went to Ashley Alfs, Charlie Baser, Sarah Betts, Reed Boeger, Carina Covella, Alexander Dembergh, Cassidy Doucette, Andrew Durtschi, Blake Ellis, Tyler Martin, Gussi Ochi, Tyner Pesch, Bob Peterson, Lexie Praggastis, Delamon Rego, Ben Roth, Hunter Smith, Tesla Teitge and Connor Wade.
Jeff Cordes presented the $2,000 Idaho Mountain Express Award to Tesla Teitge. The award has been given annually since 1988 to an outstanding graduate who is likely to contribute to the community.
The 14th Tom Johnson Memorial Award for excellence in performing arts was given by Maksik to Alice Bynum, Carina Covella, Tyner Pesch and Connor Wade.
Lexie Praggastis accepted the Laura S. Flood Memorial Award, announced by Richard Hislaire.
Tyner Pesch collected the Sonya Tarney Scholarship for the Performing Arts as well as the Boo Bushell Youth in Performance Art Scholarship.
Dollars for Scholars scholarship recipients were Connor Wade and Tesla Teitge. Wade also received the Hailey Rotary Club grant and The Works of Grace Foundation scholarship, presented to children of teachers.
Winner of the 15th Dixie Grabos Memorial Award for the appreciation and love of literature was Carina Covella. Presenter was Fred Grabos. The Trophy Sagebrush Award for imagination went to Delamon Rego.
Simone Weisz and Tyner Pesch were the winners of the Klingelhofer Senior Speech award given in the name of the late George Klingelhofer for the best senior speech.
Honors distributed at Sunday's commencement and at the school's awards ceremony Friday included:
Selected as graduating winners of the Peggy and Sigi Engl Memorial Achievement Awards were Alexander Dembergh and Bob Peterson. Kristin Monroe announced the winners during Sunday's commencement ceremony.
Engl awards go to two students at each grade level who demonstrate significant improvement in performance through effort, determination and hard work.
Other recipients of the Engl prize at Friday's awards assembly were:
Junior class, Stephanie Duininck and Chris Woodard; sophomore class, Kat Dembergh and Alexandra Dallago; freshman class, Cody Boeger and Cody Edison.
Eighth grade, Reed Stokes and North Parker; seventh grade, Chloe Jory and Maggie Shafran; sixth grade, Colby Benz and Alec Demetre.
The Wellesley College Book Award went to Amanda Harris. The Smith College Book Award was given to Emily Stephens. Anja Sundali earned the Colby College Book Award.
Max Danielson received the Williams College Book Award. Recipient of the Whitman College Book Award was Rachael Becker. The Grinnell College Book Award went to Kevin Wade, and Simone Weisz received the Anne Reed Gallery Award.
Given for the 22nd year, faculty scholarships were presented to Jon Atkinson, Mattie Griswold and Will Van Eaton.
Headmaster's Scholarship recipients were Mattie Griswold, Grace Weaver and Ian Ingram. They are continuing scholarships through their graduations.
Winners of the Middle School Community Award were Hannah Carr (eighth grade), Hailey Zanes (seventh grade) and Emma Wilander (sixth grade).
The 2005 winner of the Philip B. Detwiler Memorial Scholarship was Max Danielson. The Tom Bloomfield Memorial Scholarship went to Amanda Alexander.
Recipient of the Karen Wright Cardozo Memorial Scholarship was Nellie Brown. Amanda Harris earned the Greg Allison Memorial Scholarship. Kat Dembergh was the winner of the David Dorward Memorial Scholarship.
Bob Doyle Service Award winners were Keller Gibson and Scarlet Caldwell.
Other community service awards were distributed to:
· Gold (50-plus hours): Sarah Adicoff, Sara Alcid, Ashley Alfs, Sara Berman, Hannah Carr, Cody Curran, Jessie Curran, Max Danielson, Krista Detwiler, Andrew Durtschi, Blake Ellis, Emily Eshman, Caroline Fairchild, Wesley Flanigan, Keller Gibson, Amanda Harris, Max Harris, Spencer Harris, Hannah Hennessy, Julianna Lamb, Ben Luck, J.P. McNeal, Ross Mills, Kingsley Murphy, Brendan Nelson, Gussi Ochi, Emily O'Reilly, Tyner Pesch, Corinna Pidgeon, Lexie Praggastis, Tate Reed-McDorman, Ben Roth, Emily Stephens, Daniela Stokes, Anja Sundali, Tesla Teitge, Will Van Eaton, Connor Wade, Louisa Waycott, Chris Woodard and Hailey Zanes.
· Silver (35-plus hours): Jon Atkinson, Peter Atkinson, Charlie Baser, Beezy Bates, Riley Berman, Devon Bunce, Kat Dembergh, Khrystyne Inman, Dane Inman, Tyler Martin, Kerry Lee Nelson, Chris Nielson, Regan O'Reilly, Sarah Jane Slater and Caleb Sonneland.
· Bronze (25-plus hours): Eddy Albaman, Ginna Anderson, Cody Boeger, Nellie Brown, August Danielson, Zana Davey, Sam Farnham, Kyle Koski, Chloe Lynn, Mikey Matteson, Austin Nalen, Pepa Roth and Kevin Wade.