Above, Adams Scholars receive a round of applause at Monday's recognition event at MCLA. Left, McCann valedictorian Marinna Burzimati spoke of her experience as an Adams Scholar and MCLA student.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has been celebrating local recipients of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarships for several years now, but Monday's event was easily its biggest event yet.
The lobby area at the new Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation was packed as the college passed out certificates to dozens of high school seniors. More than 40 students accepted the invitation to attend.
"You've figured out somehow how to juggle, how to be able achieve high standards academically while doing the other things that you do to help make your school stronger, your communities stronger, to engage in life outside of class pursuits but still paying attention in the classroom to achieve this recognition," said MCLA President Mary Grant. "You should feel very proud of your accomplishments. I know your family members are proud — let them be proud."
Some 360 Berkshire County high school seniors earned the scholarships, said Joshua Mendel, associate director of admissions and emcee for the short ceremony. Often the accomplishments of academics get overshadowed by athletics, he said, but "tonight, front page, right here and center is your academic successes and we're very, very proud to be able to share the success of the scholarship with you."
The state scholarships are awarded to students who score advanced and proficient on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests and who are in the top 25 percent of their graduating class. Tuition is waved for up to four years at state schools for Adams Scholars.
"I know from experience, obviously, the amount of work and sweat it takes to qualify for this scholarship and receiving it is really a great way to be recognized for the effort you have put in," said Marinna Burzimati, a McCann Technical School graduate and Adams Scholar now in her freshman year studying psychology at MCLA.
That money can come in handy, said the 2013 valedictorian, who's facing how much higher education can cost. "I am grateful for it. This scholarship is beneficial. I can count on it each year — as long as I keep my grades up."
Those attending were offered a tour of the new center and staff from admissions and financial aid were on hand to answer questions — whether the students were considering MCLA or not.
Grant was clear that she'd like all of them to come to MCLA, but most of all, she wanted them to continue a pursuit of higher education.
"In Massachusetts, there are an array of exceptional institutions that will meet your needs and challenge you to reach those next levels of excellence," she told the gathering.
Burzimati said MCLA hadn't been on her radar early on. College meant going away, not staying at a local school. But after touring the college, "I began to really picture my future here."
"I guess that would be my best piece of advice when you look at colleges is to make sure you're confident enough that you can envision a future there and you think you're going to get everything you want out of that college," she said.
Mayor Richard Alcombright also congratulated the students from Drury High School, Berkshire Arts & Technology Public Charter School, Hoosac Valley High School, Mount Greylock Regional High School and Taconic High School (a Pittsfield High School student who RSVP'd was unable to attend).
He asked them to thank "the people in your lives who helped you get where you are today." Channeling longtime McCann School Committee member James Gazzaniga, the mayor described them as "the people who were gracious enough to give you a pat on the back and not afraid to give you a kick in the pants, when you needed it."
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