Madison DiSantis says there is a lot of uncertainty with the next stage in their lives, but the accomplishments of her classmates over the years gives her the confidence to know that they'll all go on to do amazing thing. See more photos from the ceremony here.
LENOX, Mass. — The graduates of Lee High School have been looking forward to Saturday's commencement ceremony for years.
But class speaker Madison DiSantis isn't sure "why we were in such a rush."
She reflected on her father recently telling her that her vehicle needed to be registered. And then she had to look up how to do it. Or when her grandmother did her taxes and found out she owed $500, and she didn't have the money.
"We are all in such a rush to grow up yet there are no instruction manuals for adulthood, no rulebook. Right now, our entire future is uncertain. As we stand at the threshold of adulthood, we are quite understandably apprehensive," DiSantis said.
The four years of high school, however, has given DiSantis and her 57 classmates confidence. She named classmates and their accomplishments and said if they can do that, then the graduates can handle the various adult tasks they'll need to learn. Those four years have given her confidence in all of her classmates to take on whatever challenges may come.
"We are all going to do amazing things and find just what we were put on this earth to do if you haven't already," DiSantis said.
Lee High School celebrated the school's 140th commencement ceremony at Tanglewood on Saturday. Devon Atwell, the salutatorian, reflected on his four years and said he isn't in a position to share life lessons or give advice. But, he knows what his classmates have taught him and he hopes they'll remember that in the future.
"The experiences I've had, the people I've met, the friends that I've made have all contributed to unforgettable high school years, Atwell said. "I'm not in a position to give you advice, after all we are all in the same boat. We are excited and nervous and uncertain about what to expect in the coming years. But, I will ask you to remember the things that you've taught me."
He didn't grow up with the rest of the class, being a Becket native. He joined Lee when he got to high school because it was closer. He was worried that he wouldn't be accepted by the other students. But those fears didn't last long and some of the friends he met on the first day are some of his best friends now.
"At Lee High, I didn't just get an education, I got much more. I learned lessons from both teachers and classmates that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I learned that people are so much more accepting than you might think if only you make the effort to speak to them," Atwell said.
He learned not to judge others without knowing their situation. And he learned that sharing a smile can make somebody's day. And it is those lessons he wants the people who taught him that to remember moving forward.
Valedictorian Kendra Williams said the class had an array of talents and interests but they became "odd, unconventional and at times dysfunctional family." She reflected on a number of shared experiences that will forever connect them, even as the students go separate ways.
"We have faith that the friends we have made here will the stand the time and separation as we all head out on our own path," Williams said.
Her parting advice to her classmates is, "if you can find a laugh because humor can improve a day, a mood, or an even a moment. And as you laugh through life remember, you are Wildcats. We are a family."
Between the speakers, the ceremony also featured the song "True Colors" sung by the chorus and the passing of an Ivy plant from the graduating class the class behind them. Then Principal Gregg Brighenti delivered their final lesson.
"The world is not all sunshine and beaches," Brighenti said.
But, the principal said it would be unfair to ask the students to fix all of the problems previous generations have left them. Instead, he tasked them with doing small things every day to make the world a better place — whether it is volunteer or simply to share a smile.
With that Brighenti, Superintendent Alfred Skrocki, Dean of Students Arthur Reilly, School Committee Chairman Robert Lohbauer, and Tyringham School Committee member Maureen Lenti presented the class with their diplomas.
The class then headed out into the sunshine of the lawn, gathered in a circle, and tossed their caps into the air in celebration. Families and friends awaited and then rushed in to hug and congratulate the graduates.
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