William Brown sang 'I'm Moving On' to the audience at Barrington Stage. More photos from the graduation ceremony can be found here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When Logan Adams-Malone entered Mildred Elley, she made a pact with her daughter that the two would be the best they could be.
"I wanted to bring a genuine compassion for the sick and sympathy for those who are or have been going down the wrong road, who just need to smile if only for a second," Adams-Malone said.
"But, I gained so much more."
Her daughter was entering the 8th grade and the two made the pact to do the best they could. When Adams-Malone made the president's list, her daughter made high honors. When her daughter was student of the month, so was Adams-Malone.
"I was and will always be so proud of her but you have no idea how good it felt to have her be proud of me," Adams-Malone said.
Adams-Malone joined 115 others to receive certificates and high school diplomas from the local campus on Wednesday at Barrington Stage. The school is in its 100th year and its 25th with a campus in Pittsfield.
But for Adams-Malone, it isn't only about the medical office assistant certification she earned, it was much more.
"I'm walking away with a new found confidence and belief in myself and you all should be too," Adams-Malone said.
"Look at how far you've come and now you know the possibilities are endless. You are not only obtaining a certification or license in your chosen field but a newly refined person who is now 10 times more marketable than the first time you walked through this door."
Many of the students fought through an array of obstacles and life's curve balls. But, they persevered and even when they may have wanted to give up, they didn't. That is what the school honored on Wednesday.
"Despite all of the obstacles, despite all of the times when it would be too easy to just give up, you said no. You overcame those obstacles that were placed in front of you. You earned this honor today," President John J. McGrath told the students.
"Courage, passion, determination, and perhaps creativity are the true hallmarks of champions. You the graduates of Mildred Elley are the champions."
McGrath leaned on the wisdom of philosophers and political leaders of the past, as well as Rocky Balboa, to share some wisdom. It all had similar messages of perseverance.
"It's not how many times you get knocked down in life, it is how many times you get up," McGrath said.
The keynote speaker City Councilor Peter White knows what that is like. He shared his life story and the numerous curve balls he's contended with.
He started his story when he left high school and went to Springfield Technical School to study graphic design. But, he hated it and left the program. But his parents wouldn't let him stay at home if he wasn't in school so he enrolled in Berkshire Community College thinking about education.
Then he lost several "key people" in his life and he found it hard to continue to go. Then his father died of leukemia.
"I kept going because I knew was determined that I would finish," White said.
He found solace in friends and community at Berkshire Community College. Those friends got him into the student government association and White said he really wasn't much into the politics, but rather the social scene. He and a friend then had a class project that required the use of the library, which his friend, who was in a wheelchair, couldn't easily access.
"That was unacceptable and we were determined to change it," White told the graduates.
College President John McGrath told the students about the importance of perseverance.
They wrote to the state's Department of Capital Asset Management asking for the funds to put in an elevator, even though college officials told them they had tried that multiple times before. White got a response back from DCAM asking for a meeting in Boston.
But, BCC didn't have a handicapped accessible van so his friend couldn't go.
The group said they wouldn't go either and college administrators feared that would blow the opportunity. But DCAM surprisingly came out to the college to meet with them. College officials said they'd prepare a formal presentation but the students said no, and the student in the wheelchair led a tour showing exactly how bad it was. DCAM later gave the college $250,000 for the elevator.
"We were told not to get our hopes up. And then advised to settle for a meeting in Boston. Then recommended to let professionals lead the way. None of which we did. We took less conventional options that to us seemed like better choices," White said.
White then started getting more into politics.
"I was on my way to a political aide position in Boston when 3-year-old godson came to live with me for a year, setting me on a different path and possibly redirecting a potential career in politics," White said. "While he lived with me I cut back on full-time political consulting and focused on getting a job that fit with picking him up and dropping him off at daycare. And, of course, a lot of playtimes."
But now, he's found his way back into politics but more importantly, he's found what he considers a "dream job" as an employment specialist with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission — a career he never imagined before.
"Always be ready for the curve balls that life throws at you and do not get discouraged when something doesn't work out for the first, or even the second or fourth times," White said.
Mildred Elley students are entering a change in their lives now, a change for the better. Campus President David Heckeler praised the students for the work they put in.
"Tonight's celebration is all about the changing of lives," Heckeler said.
In the future, McGrath told the students to keep in touch with the school's placement officers to make sure they have jobs in the fields they want.
"We are here as placement for the rest of your life because we want you to succeed," McGrath said.
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