Valedictorian Alice Najimy extolled the benefits of the class's small school at Sunday's graduation. See more photos here.
LENOX, Mass. — Lenox Memorial Middle and High School's small-town feel and global reach each were in evidence at Sunday's graduation.
Valedictorian Alice Najimy told the crowd that when she arrived at the school as a sixth-grader, she was intimidated by its size. But her perspective changed as the years progressed.
"I realized that as far as high schools go, Lenox is actually as small as you can get," Najimy said. "When I someday reach the time in my life when I can look back and reflect on my high school experience, I know that it will be this quality that stands out as the defining characteristic of my time here at Lenox.
"Being educated in a small school has allowed us to form relationships with teachers and with each other that would have been impossible given a larger environment. Having had multiple teachers for several years in a row, I came to regard many of them as being beyond just a teacher. They became mentors and friends.
"Years from now, I know I won't remember the AP calculus practice tests or the differential equations I was made to do over three years with Mr. Gottfried as my teacher. Instead, my memories will take me to the many lunches we spent together working through math problems — eating a peanut butter and Fluff sandwich and talking about my plans for the future, which will not, I assure you, involve me becoming a math teacher."
Najimy's classmate Danna Toledo knows exactly where she wants the future to take her. Her goal is to make the kind of global impact that a Lenox diploma has allowed her to dream about.
"My experience at LHS also helped me connect and contribute to the school and town community," Toledo said. "Mr. Pugh and Ms. Kaminski guided me and provided the venues for me to connect with community projects such as Charley's Fund.
"But the kindness and concern that I experienced doing these types of activities are attributes that I will remember to emulate when I become a doctor. This is my dream, to help the poor people of the Third World, who do not have access to adequate health care."
Toledo, an immigrant from Colombia, told the crowd in Tanglewood's Koussevitzky Music Shed that she came to the school knowing very little English but, "now I graduate three years later with a great understanding of complex subjects."
She did not allow the challenge of learning a new culture to be an impediment to success. On the contrary, she saw it as an advantage.
"My bicultural experiences have benefitted me by making me more tolerant and understanding of diversity," Toledo said. "I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend high school in this country, and now I feel that I am willing to sacrifice to achieve my educational goals in the future, no matter what it takes, so I can give something back to the country that gave me so much."
Toledo and Najimy were among eight members of the 63-member Class of 2018 to speak during the hour-long ceremony. Toledo was one of eight students to share their reflections on their time at LMMS. Two grads, Eric Mickle and Adrian Williams, expressed themselves in song, performing "Someday," by The Strokes.
Five others, like Toledo, delivered short prepared marks. Lindsey Cass, Corey Jakacky, Morgan Levesque, Riley Burke and Kasey Vallee each took his or her turn at the podium before the diplomas were distributed.
Class Salutatorian Noah Hochfelder took his cue from Madison Avenue, reminding his classmates that Sunday was not an ending as much as a, "But wait, there's more," moment.
"It's easy for us to become sentimental today," Hochfelder said. "But we must pause before we pull out the tissues and say, ‘But wait, there's more.'
"We are all more because we've grown up together and we learned together. We are all more because of our phenomenal teachers and administrators. We are all more because of our supportive community. And, on top of that, there's more to come for all of us.
"This opportunity, this day, this transition, it's the best of both worlds. Graduation is an opportunity to celebrate the lessons we've learned at Lenox. We should embrace our past and, at the same time, walk off the stage with our gaze set intently on the future."
In addition to the reminiscences of soon-to-be graduates, the day featured some reflections from their principal, Michael Knybel, who is recently home from the hospital and was unable to take the stage himself but nevertheless drafted a letter read aloud by Assistant Principal Brian Cogswell.
Knybel reminded the Class of 2018 that he started at the school the same year they did and that this year's grads have a special place in his heart.
"You have helped this school establish a tradition of excellence," Knybel wrote. "You have played a vital role in LMMHS attaining a State House citation for excellence. You have all made me so proud."
The 2018 graduating class at Lenox Memorial Middle High School includes:
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