NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The McCann Technical School's class of 2019 is filled with firsts and achievements: state vocational championships in baseball and softball, the first individual gold medal for carpentry in SkillsUSA, gold for 3D animation. The first student in 30 years to win a state Herter Memorial Scholarship. Second place in TIG welding from among 75 competitors from all over New England. And the best youth oxen driver at the 2017 Cummington Fair.
Not to mention all the other gold, silver and bronze medals in business and skills competitions, scholarships and awards.
"They go on and on and I could list many, many more and if I left you out it's nothing personal," Principal Justin Kratz said. "You guys are great class, we've done a lot of great things. And as you can see your wide-ranging accomplishments certainly put you up to the challenge of bringing out to the world the McCann brand of civility."
A lack of civility, he said, has affected discourse in politics, social media, sports, traffic jams and the news. Yet McCann students come from different towns and schools yet come together and make others welcome.
"Everyone is generally accepted and respected. I'm not going to say it's always perfect. And I'm sure you're thinking what about that time or this time," Kratz said. "Maybe we didn't get it right all the time. But I will say that every year I work at McCann, I continue to be impressed how overall our students do an excellent job of welcoming and accepting one another in developing a class that supports one another, as we see here in the class of 2019."
His last charge to the 108 graduates was to take that respect they've learned into the world at large.
"I challenge you and it is my expectation that you will treat people kindly," he said. "You can disagree with them and disagree without disrespect."
The graduating class — dressed in the school colors of green and white — filed into the Amsler Campus Center gymnasium at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to stand before their seats and sing "The Star-Spangled Banner," accompanied by Robert Davis on the keyboard.
They were welcomed by Superintendent James Brosnon who reminded them that this might be the last time within their McCann community and exhorted to "be loyalty to your family, your alumni, and your community."
The class's size meant it had "a lot of collective noise," said salutatorian Megan Goyette. "I personally think we have a lot to say. And I think this is our time to start to practice making sure we are heard, tonight is where our lives truly begin."
They graduates don't need to have all the answers but they do have to start thinking of what questions to ask, she said. To go or stay? What will be their passion in live?
"No matter where we are, what we are doing, I am confident we will be heard," Goyette said. "This reflection tonight has really been all about finding our voice. And what does that even mean to have a voice, not the talking kind, but the making-a-difference kind, the ability to say things, to share things, to support things that are important to you. ... So how will you use your voice? Think about it. What will you do with it? Because now it's our turn."
The diplomas were awarded by School Committee Chairman Gary Rivers and Brosnan and the names announced by class advisers Karen Lefave and Kelly Rooney. A video and music tribute was played after after the class popped streamers in celebration and the entire class sang the alma mater before exiting the gym into their next chapters.
Rivers reminded the class that despite all the wonderful things they've done in high school, they should be "prepared to face the fact that these titles lose their significance in the postgraduation world."
"What matters now is the work you put into your life," he said. "When you go home this evening, thank your parents for having the wisdom and foresight for having you come to McCann. For they have given you far more than a high school education — they have given you a golden key that will enable you to unlock the doors as you go through life."
Valedictorian Emma Lee Marino, taking a moment to call out to her grandfather who was in the hospital, said her time at McCann was like a puzzle. Some experiences were bad and others good.
"But all these memories are a part of the piece that high school plays in the life puzzle," she said. McCann's teachers offered words of wisdom that they can carry with them and the school has given them the tools to overcome challenges along their future path — and those first puzzle pieces of wisdom, perseverance and organization.
"There are many pieces to make the puzzle complete. One thing that high school taught me is every good thing comes to an end so you can move on to other great things," Marino said.
"This has prepared us to further our education or enter the workforce. Whatever your after-high school plans are, remember this one statement: High school is only a stage. Don't let it define you but let it shape you. Be open to new experiences, take in every drop of knowledge you can. But don't forget — McCann will always have your back."
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