Taconic High graduates were given plenty of advice on Sunday as the prepared to dive into the real world. Above, salutatorian Lucas Benjamin addresses the class.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Valedictorian Bailey C. Stokes had some words of wisdom as she looked out upon the sea of gold and green in the home of the Braves.
Not so much for her classmates — they'd already learned along with her as they'd made their way through the four years at Taconic High School — but for those coming up behind.
Most of those life lessons the class of 2014 had learned had little to do with math or science or English, but rather navigating the perils of high school (including the troublesome building itself) in areas such friendship, cooperation and hygiene.
And perhaps the best advice: how to get on Principal John Vosburgh's good side
"Pretzels and honey mustard dip," declared Stokes, hoisting bottle and bag up as her classmates laughed along with the joke (although Vosburgh didn't hesitate to accept the goodies).
Through it all, the class had achieved "the amazing accomplishment of graduating high shool," said Stokes, who will attend the University of Vermont in the fall for pre-med.
"We've made a solid base here at Taconic, we have a sturdy foundation and as I'm sure our carpentry students could tell us, the foundation is important," she said. "But you can't live in the foundation, you have to build on top of it.
"And the lessons Taconic taught us will act as the tools to help us do so."
Stokes was sure the firm foundation of Taconic would provide enough strength and the integrity to build on.
"I have no doubt that everyone one of you will be successful at building an equally strong and wonderful life on top of this foundation."
The 235 members of the class of 2014 had excelled in a wide range of areas, said Vosburgh, including making the Western Mass baseball finals, working for Habitat for Humanity and donating some 1,200 volunteer service hours.
"You are a pretty remarkable group of kids and we are all very proud of you," he said, adding this graduation in particular was momentous as he would be seeing off students he'd first met as a teacher at Reid Middle School. "This is my last opportunity to speak with a class of students with whom I have worked closely since some of you were 11 or 12 years old."
He told the graduates to find, or keep, a mentor who could listen and advise them, a person whom they could use a role model, as he had in a late uncle. He urged them to think about what they would do during "The Dash" from their beginnings to their final ends, reading from the Linda Ellis poem that had been on the back of his uncle's Mass card.
"For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash."
Vosburgh presented the valedictory award to Stokes and the salutatorian award to Lucas B. Benjamin.
Benjamin, who will attend Brown University in the fall to study political science, among other things, said the class would long remember the moments that made Taconic special.
"Our time at Taconic High School — regardless of what we outwardly claimed about it — has shaped us in ways that we will one day be thankful for," he said. "The teachers and staff have supported us in our endeavors and given us the tools to meet the challenges that await us in the future."
He encouraged his classmates to speak to strangers, reminding them that they were once all strangers to each other.
"There are billions of strangers on our planet, each with a capacity to change our lives in one way or another.
"So why not introduce ourselves?"
School Committe Chairwoman Katherine Yon brought greetings from the committee and participated with Superintendent Jason P. McCandless and Deputy Superintendent N. Tracy Crowe in presenting the high honor awards. Honor awards were presented by School Committee members Daniel C. Elias and Cynthia Taylor and Assistant Superintendent Kristen C. Behnke.
Diplomas were presented by Mayor Daniel Bianchi, said their obtainment "should imbue great confidence to know that you have the capacity for terrific achievement." Bianchi was helped by School Committee members Joshua Cutler and Pamela A. Farron and class advisers Sarah Maddalena and Jeffrey B. Siegel.
The Taconic High band performed and graduate Jacquelyne M. Kays sang the national anthem; the honors choruse sang "For Good."
McCandless advised the graduates to live a life of gratitude, and treat others with kindness.
"If you're truly thankful for who you are and what you have and for those around you, how can you despair over what others have, or feel the self-pity and hatred and jealousy intolerance creates."
Vosburgh reminded that not matter where they went, they take a part of Taconic with them.
"Never forget where you came from, when you have had time to experience life, make time to come back and share your wisdom. Taconic will always be your school and you will always be a Brave."
Val & Sal
Scholarships & Awards