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BArT Charter School graduated 31 in its Class of 2018 on Saturday.

Star Power: BArT Graduates Class of 2018

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Caleb Duffy tells his classmate that they are about to embark on a journey, starting at the bottom of a 'mountain of dreams.' See more photos here. 
ADAMS, Mass. — For years, the members of Berkshire Arts & Technology Public Charter School's Class of 2018 walked into school across a sidewalk emblazoned with the school's ubiquitous star-shaped logo.
Before walking out of the school one last time on Saturday morning, the graduates heard just how appropriate that logo really is.
"Many other elements are inside of us," the school's Executive Director James White told the graduates at the start of Saturday's commencement. "They're in the food that we eat. They're in the drinks that we have. They're in the air that we breathe.
"As the years advanced, I've learned that all … those heavy elements, besides hydrogen and helium and a little bit of lithium, were not made in the big bang. There was only one place where those heavy elements were made. One place. They were created inside the terrifically hot, deep interiors of big stars.
"Graduates, billions of years ago, everything that you are now was rolling and cavorting and moving inside a massive star. Billions of years ago, that's where you were. And look at you now."
White, an astrophysicist, opened the ceremony with that bit of cosmological history but assured the 31 members of the Class of '18 that the day's main theme is what comes next.
"Today, is not a celebration of ending," White said. "It is a celebration of beginning — one where we reflect only a little but stare firmly and confidently into the future."
Graduate Caleb Duffy picked up on that theme right away by providing a metaphor for the future that awaits him and his classmates.
"We see this as an entrance to the 'real world,' to get a degree, to get a job," Duffy said. "But where we are today is not a 'cliff to adulthood.' Rather, we stand at the bottom of a hill, of a mountain of dreams.
"Up that hill, there are sights to see, worlds to experience and journeys to begin.
"Today, we start that journey."
Principal April West shared a little about her journey, which took her from a small town in northern California to Bennington (Vt.) College when she was the same age as the graduates before her.
"My grandma had bought me a plane ticket to get me from California to Albany [N.Y.] for move-in day, but I didn't even know when I set out how I was going to get home after the first term of college ended," West said. "What I did know was that I had big things to do, a mark to make and I was one step closer to beginning that journey."
West told the crowd in the school's gymnasium that she had dreams of being either an architect or an actress, "or maybe both." But, as the members of the Class of 2018 are soon to find out, life sometimes takes you in directions you never expected.
"I stumbled through the end of my teens and my early 20s rediscovering myself and discovering new truths," she said. "I realized that what was most important to me is people, relationships and what it takes to expand opportunities for youth.
"I've come to learn it isn't what you do with your life but how you live it and what questions you ask while you're living it that are most important. Your 'how' will directly affect the 'what' of what you do."
Of course, not all of the day's festivities were about the future. In addition to honoring the graduates' accomplishments — including the fact that all of them are moving on to college — the ceremony continued a BArT tradition of letting the graduates honor their teachers. Early on in the festivities, each member of the class presented a single red rose to a member of the faculty who has particularly impacted his or her life.
And the faculty member students chose to speak at the ceremony, commencement speaker Nicholas Caccamo, reminded the grads that while today may not be entirely about nostalgia for those moving forward, those who stay behind are entitled to a little nostalgia of their own.
Caccamo, a guidance counselor, talked about the way each of the graduates inspired the entire school when he or she brought news of acceptance to college, something that happened 156 times — an average of more than five per student in the Class of '18.
"Almost every morning, one of these students walked into the office, bright and early, with big smiles on their faces, saying to whoever was there at the time, 'Guess what? I got in here or there or there or there,' " Caccamo said.
"The outward expression of pure joy by our students is why we teachers show up every day. The late nights of planning, grading essays and the difficulties that come with classroom management are all a distant afterthought. It means that we teachers did something right, that our collective commitment to your education resulted in something positive for you."
The graduating class of 2018
Gerardo Antonio Aguilar Quintero
Mark Vincent Borelli II
Xaida Dahlia Brazeau
Kyle Robert Brooks
Hayley Rianne Caufield
Rena-Marie Simone Clairmont
Morgan Spencer Covert
MaiLee Marie Daignault
Ari Edison Drayman
Caleb Desmond Duffy
Timothy Paul Durocher
Crystal Yvonne Harrington
Casey Madeleine Jackson
Andrew Alan Kerwood
Jordan Renee LeSage
Jacob Robert Mack
Chase Lee MacPherson
Ashlyn Carol Marcil
Trinity Cassandra Peets
Heather Gamelia Perkins
Kimberly Alayne Perkins
Reagan Jenee Phillips
Pamela Lyn Pixley
Amber Therese Pizani
Caelin Laryssa Rod
Emily Isabelle Taylor
Harrison Jack Todd
Jamie Lee Vachula

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Three Berkshires Women Named 'Unsung Heroines'

Liz Mitchell and state Rep. John Barrett III at Tuesday's 2019 Unsung Heroine ceremony at the State House. 

BOSTON — Three Berkshires women were named Unsung Heroines for 2019 during a State House ceremony on Tuesday.

State Sen. Adam G. Hinds nominated Donna Cesan for this recognition because of her dedication to community, having served as Community Development Director and interim Town Administrator for the town of Adams for 19 years.

Elizabeth "Liz" Mitchell, a North Adams resident and advocate for domestic violance victims with the Elizabeth Freeman Center, was nominated by state Rep. John Barrett III and Marie Richardson of Pittsfield, a caseworker in the Pittsfield Public Schools, was nominated by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.

"Donna has selflessly given countless hours of her time to ensure Adams is moving in the right direction," said Hinds. "She is well-respected in her hometown of Lanesborough, and the town of Adams is well-served by her. She is absolutely an Unsung Heroine for her dedication to our region and her professionalism, which is effortlessly showcased in all of her projects."

Massachusetts Commission of the Status of Women annually celebrates "unsung heroines" who don't always make the news, but who make a difference. They are the women who use their time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities and towns. They are mentors, volunteers and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectations of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community is better because of their contribution.   

Hinds said Cesan has dedicated her career to public service. As the director of community development, she has spearheaded economic development projects with big impact, like the construction of a platform for the Adams terminus of the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum's Hoosac Valley Service, the renovation of the Adams Visitor Center parking lot and implementing the community's vision for the Greylock Glen. Since 2014, she has been asked twice by the Board of Selectmen to also serve as interim town administrator, managing every aspect of municipal government for months, while also promoting community development initiatives in town.
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