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Sant Bani graduates head out into the "Wonderful World"

The ten seniors of Sant Bani School’s Class of 2012 made the traditional walk downhill to the athletic fields for graduation ceremonies last Friday afternoon. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
June 20, 2012
SANBORNTON — Sant Bani School's Class of 2012 made the traditional march down from the classrooms to the athletic fields, where family, friends, alumni, and faculty waited to witness their graduation, then later joined them in singing "It's a Wonderful World" as a they wrapped up the ceremonies last Friday afternoon.

Each year, the final song is decided upon by the graduating class, and on a nearly perfect late spring day, this year's selection was especially touching.

"I see trees of green/Red roses too. I see them bloom/For me and you/And I think to myself/What a wonderful world," they all sang.

Prior to the closing song, however, the ten graduates received their diplomas from Principal Kent Bicknell, heard advice from Sant Ajaib Singh, and gave individual speeches, which varied moment by moment from humorous to emotional reflections of their years in school.

This year's graduation speaker was Craig Jaster, who heads the performing arts department at Sant Bani. With his son, Caleb, among the graduates, Jaster had many fond memories of the class and personalized portions of his address to each of the graduates.

"I can speak with authority about the class we're addressing," Jaster said. "Oh, the stories I could tell…but I have never known a more cohesive senior class."

He said he had complete confidence that each of the ten young men and women were ready to go out into the world.

As the graduates themselves took center stage, "Peggy" Abeiyel Saanuo of Ghana, Africa, had heartfelt thanks for both her host family and her parents, who support her in her studies abroad. While they could not make the trip to the United States for her graduation, she said her mother and father were with her in her heart.

"My parents assisted me spiritually, and I believe they are proud of this day," she said.

Max Peterson-Gonzalez of Plymouth light-heartedly chastised his older brothers, also graduates of Sant Bani, for "setting the bar high" for graduation speeches before speaking of his experiences at Sant Bani, while Andres Sevilla recalled a teacher who once told him school wasn't "all about the grades."

"He said not to worry about the grades, so long as I was happy. I stuck with that," he said with a grin.

Peterson-Gonzalez felt it was the personal attention each student receives at Sant Bani that makes it a truly worthwhile learning experience, though.

"That's attention you don't see in the bigger schools," he said.

Emily Benton of Hebron took a moment to quote the late Christopher Reeve as she summed up her feelings.

"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable," she read.

Benton said her fellow students had made every day at Sant Bani School memorable, even through the ups and downs of high school years, and there was not one moment she would have changed as she now heads toward the inevitable.

Deanna McNaughton said the entire afternoon seemed surreal to her.

"It's exhilarating and terrorizing, but was also comforting to walk down the hill (to graduation ceremonies) and see your faces, hear your clapping. You're all still here for us," she said.

Yu Chen Chiang, known as Jasmine to her friends and classmates, came to Sant Bani from Thailand, and said her senior year had been very rewarding. She thanked everyone who helped her achieve her goal to attend college in the United States, and all, including her host family, who made her feel so welcomed.

"Wherever I go now, I will always bring my own sunshine," she said.

As senior Adison Linter stepped forward for the final speech, he noted there was a box of tissues available on a shelf below the podium.

"Don't worry — I brought my own," he said as he began his own sentimental reminiscences.

He, like many in the class, choked up several times in his speech, thanking many who had touched his life, from faculty, staff, and friends to younger students he had come to know as "family."

A common theme throughout each speech was one of gratitude for the preparation they received for their future. After years of becoming comfortable at their small private school in the woodlands of Sanbornton, they now looked forward to the challenges that lie ahead, with the confidence that they can make a difference in the "wonderful world" that awaits them.

Graduates were reminded, however, that no matter what, Sant Bani School will support them in their futures.

"Remember, we're always here to listen…we're your family, your parents, your friends and we have a lot of faith in you," said Jaster.


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