Vincienza Alicandri tells the that Drury has given them the tools to face the challenges ahead. See more photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Vincienza Alicandri in her valedictory address on Thursday night lauded Drury High School and its teachers for setting the class of 2019 on the road to success.
"Drury is an excellent school. We have a great community here," she told the gathering of family and friends in the high school gym. "I believe Drury has all the tools to push out good students for competitive colleges. It's all up to us to use those tools."
Alicandri recalled the craziness of junior year testing and the worry about trying to impress people they didn't know — college admissions. Senior year was "revolutionary" with sports teams chalking up wins — including the boys basketball team's Western Mass championship — the math team, theater productions and art exhibits.
"We're a proud bunch, the class of 2019. The record shows our class is strong," she said. "We have set a great example and are inspiring to future classes at Drury."
Leaving Drury will be hard but the class has the tools to make this journey and they shouldn't just rest on their high school laurels, Alicandri said.
"Being a winner, being average, being a failure is not important," she said. "Where you are, where you stand, as long as it was your best, that what's matters. Although there may be hardships ahead, nothing bad lasts forever. If you fall, be proud of your scars, take a step back, recharge and drive out again."
She thanked the faculty, Principal Timothy Callahan, Mayor Thomas Bernard and the administration, and called out her elementary teachers for praise. But she saved her biggest thanks for her mom, Linh Brown.
"You have raised me to stand tall on the mountain. You have walked with me through many stormy seas," she said, as her mother stood teary-eyed in the crowd. "I earned this moment just for you, mom. In the words of Panic! At The Disco, 'Hey, look Ma! I made it.'"
The 85 graduates, including Callahan's son Andrew, were presented their diplomas by the mayor, who is also chairman of the School Committee, and congratulated by Superintendent Barbara Malkas, Callahan and Stephanie Kopala, director of curriculum and instruction. Callahan also presented the high honors awards.
Class President Corbin Rumboldt introduced the national anthem, led the pledge and introduced the speakers. Vice Preisdents Abigail Smith and Connor Kelly led the procession and read the graduates' names. The chorus sang "Anthem Lights Graduation Medley" and the band played "Fantasia on the 'Dargason." The class ode was "Home" by Phillip Phillips.
The yearbook was dedicated to social studies teacher Krista Gmeiner, who was presented with flowers and a gift.
Malkas congratulated the class and offered some advice: don't drink and drive and don't text and drive. Take three deep breaths, she said, without distraction to clear your heads and make calmer and happier. And she added, it's not about where the college they go to or the branch of the military they serve or the job that they that will define them.
"It is all about your effort and willingness to do more," she said. "Find people who will be your best cheerleaders, and help you talk through major decisions with an open mind and an open heart. ... As you go out into the world and have your adventures, learn new things and become the adult you were meant to be."
Callahan said it was comic books that lead him to study and he recalled two superheroes, one each from the Marvel and DC Universes, who were fearless — Daredevil and Green Lantern. But when he studied English, he came across a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson who thought you should embrace fear.
"Always do what you're afraid to do," Emerson had written, he said. "He didn't say that the way to be a hero was to have no fear. He said, have that fear, embrace that fear, follow that fear. And if you're afraid of doing something, you should do it. Always do what you're afraid to do."
The class has already done things that scared them, such as living on their own or dropping out and coming back. And they didn't run away from their fear.
"Think about what frightens you think about what obstacles are in your path that scared or what opportunities make you fearful inside and do those things," Callahn said. "Do those things that make me scared, because that's how you learn."
Salutatorian Kelby Lesage overcame his fear because he was terrified when he arrived at Drury in his freshman year. He'd spent eight years in elementary school with the same people — but they'd gone to other high schools.
"In hindsight, though, I'm glad that I got thrown into the unknown against my will," he said. "Because if I wasn't, I might never have decided to embrace Drury. And finally, this was a group of people who would welcome me, support me and pushed me to take risk."
He found his place in band when he realized he didn't have anything to lose. And he found an "extraordinary group of people" who immediately welcomed him.
"They gave me the confidence to take risks and put myself out there wherever I could. And that's how I've come to know and love this amazing group of people right here," he said.
This class is full of achievers, LeSage said, who have the character and spirit to be a positive force for change.
"Today is an ode to what we will achieve as much as what we have achieved. We have accomplished so much already as artists, athletes and scholars," he said. "Over the past few years, we've learned together, we've lived together, you can laugh together. And every memory we share only strengthens our friendships time and time again. way I see it.
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