Lee High School Class of 2012 Ready To 'Fight Nice'
Clockwise from top: valedictorian Jia Ling Wang urged classmates to be brave; salutatorian Stephanie Passetto put her address to poetry; graduates stood to be recognized during the long listing of awards and scholarships. More photos here.
"As the day came closer, we had ambivalent feelings. We are sad to leave our friends and the school that we are so comfortable in," said valedictorian Jia Ling Wang at commencement ceremonies in the Shed at Tanglewood on Saturday afternoon. "On the other hand, we are excited to move on, meet new people, and explore the world."
Wang spoke of how she and her mother came to United States a dozen years ago to start anew and stayed — despite the warnings of friends, the strangeness and sometime rudeness they encountered.
"We ignored them because we knew they were wrong. We had courage and that's why I am still here today," said Wang, explaining that if she had listened to the negative voices, she wouldn't have been part of an outstanding school that had had its share of victories this year, including a trip to the Western Mass Super Bowl.
"No matter what you decide to do in the future, keep in mind that you should do what you truly want and follow your heart," said Wang. "Don't be stopped by fear."
The senior class of 78 students this year earned more than $90,000 in scholarships and awards, announced by Principal Kerry Burke before she handed out the diplomas waiting on the Shed's stage to the accompaniment of cheers and horns.
She offered some advice to the class on when to say yes and when to say no.
"Say no to anything that gets in your way or anyone that holds you back; say yes to embracing change, to making something better, to trusting your instincts," she told them.
But most of all, she encouraged the graduates to "say yes more than you say no." That means saying yes to dreams, building lives and "finding moments of happiness that comfort you along the way."
Salutatorian Stephanie Passetto expressed her feelings on graduation through poetry rather than prose, composing both an ode to the day and a contemplation of the future.
"Everyone is dying to get a taste of freedom; this contradiction is a complication," she said, describing "senioritis" as "glassy-eyed stares and the occasional uh-huh; Thoughts of college, and the freedom it promises, swallow up their minds."
Graduation is every poet's worst nightmare.But while Passetto saw graduation as the "accidental success that makes a novice into a master," School Committee Chairwoman Susan Harding assured them that their presence on the stage was neither accidental nor fated.
It's a crushing crescendo that seems in no rush to stop,
Class night whips by;
A flash of cameras and stately procession,
The shadow of the big day itself,
A state of the exciting chaos to come.
"Your being here today is not a predetermined outcome," she said. "By earning these diplomas, you have proven yourselves survivors, navigators and designers of your future journeys. ... You have chosen to invest in your own selves and in your futures and your determination to see the journey through makes all the difference."
1It's a future that should be governed by civility, hoped Superintendent Jason P. McCandless. While possibilities of zombie apocalypses and computers taking over the world don't keep him awake at night, aspects of the popular culture do.
"My greatest fear is that the 'Jerry Springer Show' becomes our model for how we handle disagreements," he said, raising spectres of reality television's Snookis, drunken fights, and fake drama to laughter from stage and family and friends in the audience. "Life is not a TV talk show, where telling everybody exactly what is on your mind in the most explicit terms is OK. ... Life is not about pointing fingers and laying blame."
Rather, people should be finding ways to work together to create solutions, something which the small class had already proven capable. Sometimes it's necessary to fight for what's right, he said, but he urged the graduates not "to lose the ability to disagree in an agreeable way."
"If you have to fight, fight nice."
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