Valedictorian Gwendolyn Carpenter displayed a series of T-shirts, each representing a lesson for the graduates to take with them in life. More photos of the graduation ceremony can be found here.
LENOX, Mass. — Academically, the 40 graduates in the Mount Everett Regional School's class of 2019 hadn't achieved anything too special, according to salutatorian Jaclyn Derwitsh.
"Academically we had done what roughly 3.6 million other students do every year. Thinking about it that way, graduating high school doesn't seem all too special," Derwitsh said on the stage at Tanglewood as she welcomed the class, family, and friends to the Saturday's ceremony.
"But don't let that discourage you because this is the first step, this is the spring game. Most colleges and entry-level jobs are going to require a minimum of a high school diploma, it is a basic necessity that we've all fulfilled. We must be proud not necessarily that we've overcome great difficulty but rather that we are starting a process."
But beyond the academics, Derwitsh said the Sheffield high school's class had learned deeper lessons that give them the confidence to succeed in the future.
"We have succeeded in reaching the benchmark grade required to conclude our 12 years of formal education. But we as a class have done much more than that. This day marks the culmination of hard work and accomplishments. We have all dealt with so many different things throughout our time here at Mount Everett. We have celebrated, suffered, laughed and cried together," Derwitsh said. "It is unfortunate we have not escaped our high school years without pain and tragedy. Some of us have lost a close friend or relative or someone we used to see every day. Some of having watched our friends go through the worst days of their lives."
She told the family and friends gathered in the Shed that the classmates had become close and supported each other. She thanks those who helped share her and her classmates into the people they are now and in the future. And that community is what gives the class the skills to succeed.
Those skills are what outgoing Principal Glenn Devoti also reflected on. He recalled at the beginning of his career speaking to the National Honor Society and telling the students that they needed to work harder in the future because people from all over the globe were coming to take their jobs or seats at college.
"That message is predicated on fear and insecurity. That was the incorrect message. There are tiny bits of truth to that but it was an incorrect message and not the message I want you to hear tonight," Devoti said.
His experience has shown him differently. While some of that is true, he doesn't want the students to feel that way. He said getting to Saturday's ceremony is a great accomplishment and they should feel pride in it.
"You should not think of your future as a locomotive coming to run you over but it is like a bright warm sun of a new day because nobody is giving you a diploma today, nobody is giving you an award, nobody is giving you a scholarship. You have earned those and from that sense of accomplishment, you've reached this plateau of your professional futures. You should feel proud of that and it should fill you with a sense of confident optimism," Devoti said.
Devoti is retiring and received multiple standing ovations from the crowd. A teary student support coordinator Kurt DeGrenier thanks Devoti for his service to the school.
"Personally, he's given me the best 15 years of my professional life and personal life. Thank you my dear friend," DeGrenier said.
The ceremony is a big milestone for valedictorian Gwendolyn Carpenter, who has lived Mount Everett her entire life -- her grandfather was on the School Committee, both parents work there, all of her aunts and uncles went there. She "bleeds blue and gold." She recalled being out of town and trying to explain where she lived and when she'd say "Western Massachusetts," people would think Springfield.
"It used to make me mad when it took me 15 minutes to explain where I lived to a stranger but I've learned to embrace the small towns that many of us call home. It is unique and it is special," Carpenter said.
It is a school in which everybody knows everything about each other. It is a family. Carpenter will be leaving that family to go to college but with her, she'll be bringing plenty of T-shirts. On the podium, she hung five of them, each representing lessons she is taking with her into the future.
One reads: "love blue, live gold" while another is the outline of a home plate. The star student-athlete said a home plate is exactly 17 inches, in the same dimensions, at all softball and baseball fields.
"Home plate will always be there. So as you are hustling down the first base line, meeting new people and having new experiences, as you are stealing second and getting your dream job, rounding third and starting your own family or traveling the world, remember your home plate," she said.
Another reads "grit matters" and she encouraged her fellow graduates to go into the world with mental toughness, to "take the hit, get knocked down, and then get up even stronger." Another shift reads "it's all about execution." She said in sports athletes have jobs to do as part of a team and she told her classmates to find that job, do all of the little things right, and that will lead to success.
"One of the most difficult parts of this is identifying your role. Not everyone can play the same role. You can't have eight goal scorers and no defenders on a team, that is just not going to work. So as you start school or your career, find that new role, focus on doing your job," Carpenter said.
And another shirt had the Eagle's logo inside of a Superman design. She told the students to "be your own superhero, do not wait for somebody to save you."
After a musical medley by the Mount Everett wind ensemble, the class of 40 received their diplomas from Devoti, DeGrenier, School Committee Chairwoman Jane Burke, and Superintendent Beth Regulbuto. The ceremony included the announcement of various awards, the chorus singing the class song "Already Home," the announcement of scholarships, and remarks from Burke and Regulbuto.
"I hope you reflect on this celebration with a well-deserved sense of pride and joy. I also hope it is in these moments in life, like this graduation, that you are humbled, gracious, and thankful," Regulbuto said.
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Ethics Commission Alleges Conflict Violations by West Stockbridge Chief
WEST STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — The Enforcement Division of the State Ethics Commission on Wednesday filed an order to show cause alleging that West Stockbridge Fire Chief Peter Skorput, a former Select Board member, committed multiple conflict-of-interest law violations, including setting stipends for himself, his daughter and his nephew; voting as a Select Board member to reappoint himself fire chief; and terminating a firefighter who had filed a complaint against him.
According to the order, shortly after Skorput was elected to the Select Board in 2013, a West Stockbridge official contacted the town's counsel about conflict-of-interest law exemptions available to Skorput regarding his serving both as a Select Board member and fire chief.
Allegedly, town counsel advised the official that Skorput follow the requirements for a particular conflict-of-interest law exemption that would allow him to accept pay for both positions, and this was communicated to Skorput. From the time he was elected until January 2017, however, Skorput did not meet the exemption requirements and violated the conflict of law by continuing to hold his compensated fire chief position after his election to the Select Board, according to the order.
The order further alleges Skorput violated the conflict-of-interest law by participating officially in matters involving his own and his daughter's financial interests. In 2013, Skorput allegedly voted as a Select Board member to reappoint himself as fire chief. Also, as fire chief, he allegedly decided the amount of firefighter stipends for himself each December in 2013-2015 and for his daughter in 2013 and 2014, and as a Select Board member signed the pay warrants for his daughter's stipends. Additionally, at several Select Board meetings in 2015 and 2016, Skorput allegedly participated as a Select Board member in the board's review of complaints about his performance as fire chief.
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Tanglewood cut the ribbon on the new $33 million Linde Center for Music and Learning Friday morning.
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