Valedictorian Wilson Cole Sprague speaks about the uncertainty in life the students will now face. More photos from the ceremony can be found here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — On a warm day, Monument Mountain valedictorian Wilson Cole Sprague tossed a Frisbee to his friend, who went full steam chasing after it.
Sprague noticed a sign sticking out of the ground and tried to yell to watch out but it was too late. His friend ran right into it and fell to the ground. When it was clear he was OK, Sprague joked, "you really left your mark on Monument."
When it comes to all of the classes and tests, it might be that day that provided Sprague one of his most important lessons.
"There were moments during my time at Monument when I felt I had run into a metal sign. Moments, actually, would be an understatement. Every single day I ran into a metal sign and it was often the same one. On the best of days, I got up, shook it off, and moved on. On the worst of days, however, I sat and talked to my teacher for an hour as she calmed me down during May of junior year when the stress had become just a little bit too much," Sprague told his graduating classmates from the Shed's stage at Tanglewood.
"I expected myself to continually know the right answer at a time when that expectation was neither realistic nor healthy, during a time when standardized tests and the looming stress of college applications told us that knowing the right answer is literally all we should be doing. This was my sign."
What Sprague learned was that "being unsure is OK." He read a study in which 4-year-olds were given puzzles, some chose easy ones and some difficult ones. The children who chose the difficult puzzles showed the most growth. And now the graduating class of 2019 is about to enter a world with a massive number of puzzle pieces.
"If we stick to the easy puzzles in life, the ones we've already done or the ones that have only a few pieces, we simply will not grow," he said.
In speaking at Sunday's graduation, Sprague told his classmates that growth doesn't always mean one piece is clearly connected to the next in an orderly fashion but rather that the world is filled with puzzle pieces and it is unsure how they will all come together.
"All we can ever do in this present moment and in every moment after this is realize that there will always be some degree of uncertainty and to place our pieces with honesty and passion. This is to grow," Sprague said.
Salutatorian Paige Erin Begley also reflected on the pressures of life but more from a social aspect.
"I think as we grow older we become aware of our vulnerability in ways we weren't before. We become aware of the gazes of others, their perceptions and opinions, and judgments. We become aware whether we are good or bad at things and we start to only let others see us doing the things we are good at," Begley said.
She said too many of the habits people have as children get buried because of that concern and she asked the students to enjoy the simple moments, the moments when their true selves show through.
"They are worthwhile to hold onto. Those are moments when we know ourselves and are not afraid to be ourselves and express ourselves honestly," Begley said.
"Don't be afraid to be known by the people around you for whatever it is that may be, don't be afraid to say what you have to say. And every once in a while, let the 4-year-old do the talking."
Monument Mountain graduated 124 students at Tanglewood on Sunday as a heavy storm was brewing overhead. The ceremony included music from the band, the singing of "In My Life" by the Spartones, speeches by Superintendent Peter Dillon and Principal Douglas Wine and plenty of cheers and the bouncing of beach balls.
For a first, the school let the graduates decide who announced the names of those walking across the stage to get their diplomas and they chose teacher Scott Annand.
"You are one of the finest classes to ever walk the halls at Monument Mountain and should be very proud of that," Annand said to roaring applause from the students. "Take those passions, take those skills, and take your heart and go make your mark on the world because you are that great. I believe in you and I thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your world."
As Annand read the names, the rain started pouring down, but each student carried a big smile on their faces as they strolled across the stage to receive their diplomas from School Committee Chairman Stephen Bannon.
And now, "it is up to you to continue the learning process," Bannon told them.
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