WESTMINSTER, Vt. – How do we make this graduation really special for our students during this unprecedented time the Kurn Hattin Homes staff asked themselves? We miss the students and the students miss the staff and their friends. We came up with a unique plan to celebrate each graduate individually with a personalized ceremony to take to their homes throughout Vermont and New Hampshire – all while abiding by the current safety protocols.
So how did we pull this off? A miniature “stage” with the Homes’ banner, chairs, decorations, and flowers was constructed on a flatbed trailer and pulled to each graduate’s home. Speeches, music, and recognitions played significant roles in the ceremonies incorporating many of Kurn Hattin Home’s traditions. The students were shown how much they are valued and loved. Each was heartfelt and so appreciated.
From June 6-14, throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, staff set up and dismantled the moving parts between locations, as there were often two or more ceremonies per day. Graduation proceedings at each location began with Sue Kessler, assistant executive director, welcoming everyone and reading a statement from Board President Mark Bodin. He said, “You have shown you have what it takes in the classroom. More important than what you learned or what you can do is who you are. Despite the challenges of the times, the person you have become is ready for the challenge.”
Salutatorian Ben Robichaud shared, “My houseparents, teachers, and my family helped me shape my life to how it is now. Kurn Hattin has given me the home that has let me find out who I truly am.”
Valedictorian Elizabeth Anderson shared the Kurn Hattin core values. “Perseverance: Never give up, and always give your best, Nurturance: Take care of yourself, Hope: Hope will carry you through the hard times and beyond, Compassion: Makes the world a better place, and Sense of Worth: Kurn Hattin has taught every one of us how to value ourselves. These are all examples of what makes Kurn Hattin the strong, friendly environment that kids are able to call home.”
Several students received one or more awards: The Residential Suitcase Award for eighth graders who show outstanding progress went to Tristan Caroll and Deeanna Nicol; The Maiola Athletic Award, for all-around athletic excellence went to Ethan Sumner and Denali Thorson; The Woodhull Music Award for Choir Award went to Deeanna Nicol, Jazz Band: Ethan Sumner, Most Overall Talented: Benjamin Robichaud and Elizabeth Anderson; and the Instrument Award: Tristan Caroll. The Alumni Association Award for students who embody the spirit of Kurn Hattin through their kindness to others and their participation in all aspects of campus life went to Cameron Childress and Elizabeth Anderson; The Eleanor Ward Achievement Award, for the eighth grader showing the greatest improvement went to Tristan Caroll; The John P. Barry & Christopher W. Barry Award, for the student who exemplifies the Kurn Hattin spirit and shows acts of kindness to staff and students throughout the school year went to Cameron Childress; The W.I. Mayo Memorial Award, for outstanding all-around achievement by an 8th grader went to Benjamin Robichaud; The Vincenzo James Ruggiero Memorial Scholarship Award went to Ethan Sumner and Deeanna Nicol. Four Kurn Hattin alumnae were awarded the Thomas G. Fahner Scholarship Award: Reginald Watson, Class of 2015, Jakobie Graves-Amidon, Class of 2019, Madison Ramos, Class of 2015, and Jessica Gibson, Class of 2016.
Principal Sergio Simunovic read heartfelt thoughts about each graduate from the Kurn Hattin community and presented diplomas. “It’s amazing how quickly the Kurn Hattin community came together with the plan for our 2020 traveling graduation roadshow during this extraordinary time. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the graduates and the pride and love from their families at each of the ceremonies was a true joy to behold and a clear testament to the Kurn Hattin team effort that made this idea so successful. Taking the difficult circumstances that we’ve all been dealing with over the past months and turning them into such a wonderful, positive way of ending the 2020 school year shows the dedication and commitment of the KHH staff to our children and to our mission. We are so proud of every one of them!” lauded Assistant Executive Director Sue Kessler.
Thank you to the staff whose vision and creativity made this special occasion one for the books. To Elizabeth Anderson, Emma Duckett, Topanga Town, Deanna Nicol, Cameron Childress, Tristan Caroll, Dani Thorson, Lexi Miller, Ethan Sumner, Ben Robichaud, and Maddie Farrar – Congratulations! You did it!
After graduating, some of the students will attend their local high schools in the fall and others will move on to attend other private residential schools with a similar mission.