Valedictorian Loren Amdahl-Culleton told his classmates to keep moving forward and not think about the way back.
LENOX, Mass. — Monument Mountain High School valedictorian Loren Amdahl-Culleton told his graduating classmates to "internalize" a stubborn determination to continue on despite anything that could hold them back.
In his graduation speech, Amdahl-Culleton told the tale of a journey with his brother to the top of a volcano. With little gas in the car, they raced to the top of the mountain — beating the sun's set — to find a spectacular site.
On the return home, the car ran out of gas, he told his classmates at Sunday's graduation exercises, but the sight from the top was worth it.
The story was an allegory for life for the graduates as they move on from the Great Barrington high school to take their next steps.
"When on the brink of collapse and uncertainty, we must keep moving forward. Forget the consequences no matter how tangible they seem, we must not worry about the journey back until we've completed the journey there," Amdahl-Culleton said. "If we stop, even for a moment, to take respite from the confusion and turbulence that rages around us to refuel, something spectacular may pass us by."
By struggling through the trials and tribulations, the students will find themselves at a place that will "quite literally blow you away," he said.
After struggling through high school, and racking up honors along the way, his next step will be Stanford University. Salutatorian Alandra Lopez's next step with be Bowdoin College and when she gets there, she will go there knowing that "there is no one road that will lead us to success."
"Life would be just too crowded that way and probably too easy as well," Lopez told her classmates.
Lopez said she has a naturally shy disposition and that she knew it would be difficult to give a speech at graduation. When she asked for advice, she was told to just be herself and that she shouldn't hide the timidness with a "false charisma." In turn, that is what she told her classmates.
"It's not necessarily about inventing the newest smart phone or building a rocket to go into space, it's more about keeping the world moving and making everyone around you better in your own unique way," Lopez said. "There are over 69 million roads in the world and chances are one of them is meant for you. Even if none of these roads seem right for you, there is plenty of untouched land for you to create a road and add more to our map."
Monument Mountain Regional High School graduated 139 students on Sunday. See more photos here.
During her time at Monument Mountain, she learned that "everyone is unique and everyone does have a place in this world." While their paths may or may not meet again, she told her classmates to forge a road according to their "true selves."
Sunday signaled the end of one phase of life for 139 graduates as they walked across the Tanglewood stage at the Shed. And as they did, a thunderstorm broke out, which Principal Marianne Young said was "fitting" because of the list of accomplishments and talents in the class.
"There is a school in Haiti that is in better shape because of you; the environment has been taken care of because of you; there are senior citizens in our community who have enjoyed dinner and music and theater because of you; there are people who are faced with cognitive and physical handicaps whose lives were made better, even if it was only for one Special Olympics day, because of you; there are people whose cars are running today because of you; there are people who have and will enjoy fresh vegetables because of you; there are people who are able to buy cloths and books and stuff for their homes because of you; there are people whose computers run because of you," Young said. "You have it all. Bring it to the world, change the world."
While it may be easy to look back in sadness at those accomplishments, School Committee Chairman Stephen Bannon told the class to keep looking forward in anticipation rather than look back in regret.
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