Graduate Shanique Maloney brings down the house with her rendition of the 'Star-Spangled Banner.' See more photos here.
ADAMS, Mass. — In a graduation ceremony typically filled with pop culture references, charter school teacher Stephanie Watroba decided to turn one iconic movie moment on its head.
Its green, wrinkly head.
"A wise man once said ... it was Yoda," Watroba said, drawing a laugh at the reference to the Star Wars character. "A wise man once said, 'Do or do not. There is no try.'
"I don't know what that means.
"Try, please. Try all the time. Try all the things. Try new things. Try old things. Try trying things. Try trying not to try things. Let me know how that one goes. That one sounds interesting."
Watroba was the principal speaker at Saturday morning's ceremony, when Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School sent 29 members of the class of 2019 on to colleges ranging from Howard University and the University of Maine to Williams and Berkshire Community.
Watroba reminded them all that they go equipped with the knowledge they have acquired from their teachers and the experience that trying — and even failing — is part of life.
She borrowed her theme from another pop culture touchstone, the video game Legend of Zelda and, more specifically, the Triforce of Power from the game that adorns her classroom at BArT.
The three-sided figure represents power, wisdom and courage, and Watroba focused on the least understood of the three.
"Courage is a quality that cannot necessarily be taught so easily," she said. "Courage is something that many people mistake as an absence of fear. Therefore, when they experience fear, they think that they are cowards and they give up.
"Courage isn't the absence of fear. It is being afraid and standing up anyway. In fact, you can't have courage without fear."
Graduate Thomas Cook said he was afraid that he might not be able to capture the personalities of his 28 classmates in a single speech he wrote for Saturday's ceremony.
"When I elected to write a speech for graduation, I didn't know what I was getting myself into," Cook said. "Writing a speech that speaks to our class is quite difficult, it turns out. In a class of 29 seniors who all have different personalities, it is nearly impossible. But that is our identity.
"We are everything. We are humor. We can be gossip. We are grit and determination. We can be lazy, too. We are creative. We can doubt ourselves. We are intellectuals. We can make mistakes. We are leaders. We can learn from others.
"For everything we are, we are the opposite as well."
No doubt for some of the graduates of the non-traditional school, the road that brought them to Saturday's graduation was one he or she may not have chosen on his or her own.
First-year Principal Sean Keogh knows how they felt.
Keogh told the audience that when he came to the school as a teacher 10 years ago, fresh out of graduate school, he was not sure about the only charter school in the Berkshires. He thought instead he might move his family to eastern Massachusetts, where he grew up, and wait for a job to come along rather than accepting the only job offer he had on the table.
Keogh said he called his mother to talk about the life-changing decision, and she convinced him to take the bird in the hand and the security that came with the offer to teach in Adams.
"All of this is to say that when I arrived at BArT, I wasn't thrilled at at being here," Keogh said. "I wanted to be with my friends. At a real school. But my mom made me come."
After pausing for raucous laughter, he added, "Sound familiar to anyone?"
Like the graduates before him, Keogh stayed.
"At BArT, I found a diverse community of dedicated individuals and slowly made some friends," he said. "It supported me in leaning in to some of the odder parts of my personality. I mean, seriously, I've admitted to loving Kanye West and 'Gilmore Girls' with equal passion, and they all have embraced me for it.
"Sure, there were times when high standards here stressed me out, but I had to admit that the pressure was improving me as a teacher, making me a better version of myself. I was a person who was working to make the world better, and I was proud of that."
Now, it's the turn of the BArT graduates to make their own mark on the world, they were told.
"As we start toward the next part of our lives, remember our time in high school," graduate Abigail Mullany said. "We will all have days when we wish we could come back to these halls, wishing back to the time when we didn't have to pay our tuition or student loans.
"It was the intense work, the long nights and the will to graduate today that got us through high school. And now, I can proudly say that we did it. We made it. We can sleep easily without having to worry that we forgot to do our English homework.
"I want to thank you for being my classmates and for making the horrors of reality crashing down actually bearable. … Today is the day the life we've known ends, but it's also the day our lives begin."
More photos from this ceremony to come.
Class of 2019 (with college destinations):
Isaiah Richard Albright (St. Lawrence); Dylan Dermody Battaini (UMass Dartmouth); Tyler Jacob Bouchard (Westfield State); Ruth Marin Bristol (Williams); Natalie Rengin Celebi (Purchase); Luka Jacob Clark (BCC), Thomas Joel Cook (MCLA); Madison Kate Decelles (BCC), Joshua Hansen Donovan (UMass Dartmouth); Jessica Grace Doubiago (Make-Up Designory); Joshua Mark Doubiago (St. Michael's); Matthew Thomas Failla (Salem State); Macie Louise Fitch (UMass Boston); Ben Hess (BCC); Johnyce Me'lonie Lanphear-Dyer (Howard); Ian Darren Joseph Lesure (Landmark); Anny Fatima Lopez Urquizo (Siena); Darrell Anthony Lynch (Suffolk); Shanique Dorcas Maloney (Southern Connecticut State); Abigail Mary Mullany (Maine); Shelby Lynn Patterson (Westfield State); Braydon Arthur Peterson (BCC); Joseph O'Bryant Prince (BCC); Riley Patrick Rivard (Curry); Olivia Louise Shaw (MCLA); Ayannah Zhanelle Sheerin (MCLA); Hannah Olivia Stringer (Westfield State); Caitlin Henrietta Terpak (Clark); Abraham Elizabeth Ward (Montserrat College of Art).
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to email@example.com.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
State Aid Numbers in Hand, Adams Eyes September Town Meeting
By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff
Chairwoman Christine Hoyt says retiring Community Development Director Donna Cesan will be recognized for her work at an upcoming meeting.
ADAMS, Mass. — Recent clarification on state aid numbers will likely lead to holding the annual town meeting in September, according to Town Administrator Jay Green.
Some municipalities have postponed town meetings and budget votes because of the state's uncertain financial picture caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without a clear indication of what the state might be providing in unrestricted local aid and Chapter 70 education aid funds, detailed on what's commonly known as the cherry sheets, Green and the Selectmen have been hesitant to schedule a town meeting and approve a budget the town might be unable to afford should state aid numbers be slashed because of the global pandemic's effect on the economy.
Although the practice has been reinstated by the governor as part of Phase III of his COVID-19 reopening plan, the town of Adams has yet to allow tag sales within its borders. Hours after a brightly colored sign goes up on a utility pole advertising a tag sale, it is often being removed.
click for more
"Banners for Fallen Heroes" is the endeavor of George Haddad and Selectman James Bush, who worked with volunteers and American Legion Post 160 to honor those from Adams who died in service for their country.
click for more