Valedictorian Nathaniel Beaupre tells his classmates that it wasn't the building but the people in it that helped them become adults. See more photos here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Taconic High Class of 2018 began the walk into the gymnasium to the sounds of "Pomp and Circumstance" as the hour struck 1 on Sunday.
And about 90 minutes later, the graduates turned their tassels and became the final class to graduate in the same building as so many Braves have in the past. Next year, the students will shift the new school being constructed across the driveway.
"As much as we complained about the antifreeze leaks and resident rodents, Taconic High School was home. We created so many memories here and the excitement that we feel for the new school is tempered by a sense of loss. There will be a different school without our school's name on it. All of the nostalgia that we will feel is in that name and hopefully that will be enough," valedictorian Nathaniel Beaupre said.
"Although we may not miss the crumbling staircases, it is bittersweet to see them crumble because the building that our class experienced was the same building so many other classes had experienced before us."
Beaupre reflected on being the last group of students to have all four years of their high school lives be based out of the original "Braves House." But, he said it isn't so much the building that turned the Class of 2018 from children into adults starting their lives, it is the people inside the building.
"We won't have the chance to make new memories across the driveway. But we are the last group of students who were able to have all four years of their memories formed in a building that was part of this community. We are the last. It is an astounding thought," Beaupre said
Salutatorian Anthony Arace highlighted the successes the class has had in academics, sports, arts, and in the trades. He hopes his classmates don't judge success by money or popularity in the future.
"I would love to say all of us are going to build mansions, earn millions, or become famous. But many of us may not become rich and famous. In fact, these are rather unsuitable goals in a society that has blurred the true meaning of success. Success is not defined by how much money you have or how many people you know. It is actually much simpler that than," Arace said.
Happiness is the key to success, he said, and he wants the graduates to define their own success.
"If there is anything I've learned in high school is that I don't want to ever again have to wake up at ridiculously early hours, drive to a place I can barely find a parking spot, and then do the same boring thing every day - sorry teachers," Arace said.
"If you prepare to go off to college or start a career, I encourage you to make sure you are setting yourself up for the future you want to live and will enjoy the most, find your passion and live it. High school has prepared us for what's next but it is up to each of us to decide how we want to live our lives."
School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon said all of the graduates have the ability to be "superheroes" just by having "the courage to be kind." She advised the class to be empathetic and passionate.
"Every one of you can change the world. What does that take? An IQ in the genius range? No. A great sum of money? No. Being president of your class, being the manager, being the officer in charge, being as tall as Lebron? No. Not at all. It simply takes a little bit of courage, courage that I know you all have, courage I am going to ask you to find within yourselves. That is the courage to be kind," Yon said.
Mayor Linda Tyer said courage isn't about a lack of fear but rather being afraid and going forth anyway. She asked the students to seek adventure. Not everything is going to go as planned, she said, but by being open to those unexpected adventures, the graduates' lives will be greatly enriched.
"I graduated from high school a long, long time ago. I think before you were born. Since my high school graduation, I made some mistakes that I regret, like being in a big hurry to get on with grown-up life and not getting more college education. Like many of you, I had a well-planned life and when things didn't go my way, I was a little tossed about. After learning from these setbacks, I'm much better at recognizing adventure and I am much braver at chasing it down," Tyer said.
"How do I know this? Because it is completely improbable that I am here today addressing you as your mayor. I am proof that accepting adventures will enrich your life beyond your wildest imaginations. Leave room in your well-planned life for the unexpected."
Superintendent Jason McCandless said one of the biggest lessons the students have learned is teamwork and community. He said every triumph wasn't an individual alone but rather "we" and it was the "we" that supported people during times of failure.
"Taconic has never been an 'I' place. Taconic is a 'we' place. You've shown us that one individual can be great but working together, individuals can be sublime," McCandless said.
McCandless elaborated on the concept of "we" and said it is predominate in the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. He said the founders could have used specific definitions of certain groups but chose "we."
"We is not just the people we like. It is not just the causes we identify with. We is not just the people that vote the same way we do or support the same candidates. We is not just those peoples whose lifestyle is like our own. We is not just the people who worship god in the same way we worship god. We is all of us," McCandless said.
He urged the graduates to keep the things that divide people "in check" and to keep loving each other and keep listening to each other.
Following the speeches, the students rose and received their diplomas from Tyer, the School Committee, and class advisors.
But the Class of 2018 members weren't the only ones to leave the school for the last time on Saturday. Principal John Vosburgh said his final goodbye after nine years. Vosburgh is set to become the new superintendent in the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District but, slightly choking up, said he'll always be a Brave, just like the graduating class.
"I want to thank you for being the class I leave with. You and all of the students over these nine years will always have a special place in my heart. Remember, Taconic will always be your school and you will always be a Brave," Vosburgh said.
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