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Berkshire Arts & Technology Graduates 'Pioneer' Class

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
12:45AM / Sunday, June 12, 2011

Class speakers Mallorey Caron, left, and Alexandra Perkins got choked up over leaving but Sarah Nelkin said the class was ready to fly. See more photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The class of 2011 has been with the Berkshires Arts and Technology Charter Public School all the way.

From its beginnings in leased space at Mount Greylock Regional High School in 2004 to its new quarters in Adams, this tight-knit class has seen its own numbers winnowed down even as it watched other classes come and go and grow. Not surprising that saying goodbye wasn't easy for these pioneers, as Executive Director Julia Bowen called them.

"They accepted us with open arms, the people were weird, I felt like I could be myself," said Mallorey Caron, her voice breaking as she addressed the friends and family gathered under arches of yellow and black balloons at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Church Street Center on Saturday morning. "I didn't have to worry about being judged, or saying something or hiding in a corner."

With classmates Alexandra Perkins and Sarah Nelkin beside her, she continued, sobbing, "If you ask me right now even the smallest detail about anyone in my class I would be able to tell you" and rattled off a list of things about her classmates. "If I had gone to any other school I doubt I would have had the close-knit relationships I found here and I am so grateful for that."

Perkins and Nelkin, too, found acceptance and a path to success within the school during difficult times. Perkins admitted to having made bad decisions; Nelkin had lost her home in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina.

"I had no idea that I would make the best friends anyone could ask for and create unexplainable relationships that still amaze me to this day," Perkins said. "I can truly say that I love you all ... I can't wait to see what we look like at our high school reunion."

However, she added, with a sob, that she owed the school and her grandparents more than words can express and vowed "I will do great things in my life and I'll always look for the positive when surrounded by negative."

Nelkin said the class had started at 48 and spoke of some the ups and downs and comings and goings that occurred over years. "Life isn't all sweet things ... we know that," she told the audience. "Parents, this is a message for you: we do have the strength to persevere through college because of the experiences we've gained in our middle school and high school years. All we need in our journey is for you to believe in us."

Teacher Andrew Gibson, who gave the commencement address, charged the class with two things: to have faith in the dynamic nature of life and when tested in life, to be true to what they know to be right.

A history buff, he told them of the Confederate charge on Cemetery Ridge on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was a weak spot in the line that Gen. Robert E. Lee's troops could use to break the Union's center in a deathblow. Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock ordered the 1st Minnesota Regiment to charge the Confederate division to buy time. The Midwesterners slowed the advance, giving Hancock 10 precious minutes to move more troops up but at a devastating cost of 80 percent in casualties. They charged, said Gibson, because they understood what was at stake and what was right.

"You are made of the same stuff or you can be if you so choose, in the last analysis it is all about what we choose," he said. "I see great futures waiting for all of you ... through your efforts and detemrination as BArT students, you are ready for your next step."

The diplomas were handed out by Principal Benjamin Klompus and Board of Trustees Chairwoman Dianne Cutillo. Bowen welcomed the graduates and reminded them that the school would continue to support their success and told them to keep in touch. 

Nelkin, who will attend the University of Hawaii to study Japanese Language, sang "Kimi no Mama de" ("Stay Who You Are") and provided a translation she had done of the lyrics. A video of the class was presented by graduate Dylan Lampro. A reception with cake was held immediately after the ceremony. 

"You are teed up for success but you are not guaranteed it," Klompus said as farewell words. "It's up to you to continue to work hard and follow through ... be well, do good work and keep in touch."

The graduates are:

Kimberly Bongiovanni, attending Hampshire College to major in philosophy and religious studies

Mallorey Caron, attending the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University to major in fine arts and language

Brandi Genette, attending the dental assisting postsecondary program at McCann Technical School

Morgan Hussey, attending the University of New Hampshire at Durham to major in equine studies

Dylan Lampro, attending Berkshire Community College to major in music

Gabrielle McNiece, attending Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to major in biology

Nicholas Miclette, attending Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology to major in 3D digital graphics

Sarah Nelkin, attending the University of Hawaii at Monoa to major in Japanese Language

Alexandra Perkins, attending Salve Regina University to major in administration of justice

Matthew Rose, attending Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts or Salve Regina University to major in historic preservation and communications

Scholarships & Awards:

John and Abigail Adams Scholarship Awards: Kimberly Bongiovanni, Morgan Hussey, Gabrielle McNiece, Nicholas Miclette, Alexandra Perkins

Massashcuests Elks Association Scholarships: Mallorey Caron, Morgan Hussey, Alexandra Perkins

Greylock Federal Credit Union Treat Everyone Better Than They Expect Award: Matthew Rose

South Adams Savings Bank Scholarship: Gabrielle McNiece

Alma Louise Mary Riello Scholarship from Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp.:
Sarah Nelkin

Adams Co-operative Bank Scholarship: Alexandra Perkins

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