LENOX, Mass. — The 49 graduates of Lenox Memorial High School are ready for the risks ahead as they leave the close-knit class of 2019 and learn to fly.
The class is similar to the monarch butterfly that the students had rushed to see emerge from its chrysalis after weeks of waiting, said valedictorian Magdalena Sorrentino from the stage of the Shed at Tanglewood on Sunday afternoon.
"We want to so badly to witness this first life, to see the transformation of a little caterpillar to the majestic butterfly," she said, but their teacher advised patience and that the insect would emerge when it was ready. We saw the crinkly chrysalis slide away to reveal the dazzling creature underneath. In awe, we quietly watched as the monarch unfolded its orange wings."
Like a caterpillar, the class has grown and changed and been nourished with knowledge. And now they have emerged and must leave the chrysalis into the unknown.
"But take comfort in how far we have come. Be reminded of the challenges you overcame, everything that you learned and the strength of not only yourself, but of the people who are on the sidelines, who supported you and waited for the moment you stepped out of your comfort zone and truly became an individual," Sorrentino said. "This is the moment we learn to fly."
Tristan Collins led the pledge and the high school band played "The Star-Spangled Banner." Graduate Phoebe Carry played "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" on the organ. The class was presented by Principal Michael Knybel and the diplomas were presented by School Committee Chairman Robert Vaughn, Superintendent Kimberly Merrick and Assistant Principal Brian Cogswell.
Merrick said she was sure that many of them had questioned why they needed to know this or that during their time at the school. Some might even remember the teachers who pushed them and the essays they had written.
"But I believe that you will remember with fondness most of the days that you spent at Lenox Memorial," she said. "Because this is not about facts and figures. It's about friendship. It's about teachers who care. It's about being part of a wonderful community."
The education they had received at Lenox Memorial will give them the ability to engage with life -- whether its math, or literature, or science, she said, rather than letting life simply lead them where it will.
"Most importantly, and hopefully, you will live life, soak up every experience, take worthwhile risks, and invest in every single friendship and consider every sorrow and joy," the superintendent said. "In sum, go, live, laugh, love, never stop learning."
Salutatorian Julie Pehlert recalled some of the classes accomplishments and opportunities as they fulfilled the school's mission statement to pursue excellence.
"But setbacks are a crucial part of the pursuit of excellence. They are what made us tougher, pushed us harder and shaped us into who we are today," she said. "Class of 2019, we are ready for the next step. This day is not only a celebration of our past achievements, but it is also the opening to what we will accomplish next. The pursuit of excellence is lifelong. We must continue to strive for success."
Also speaking where class President Jimmy Jay Chassi, Domenica Gomez and "surprise" speaker Lauren Gamache.
Chassi thanked the "incredible" class for being his friend and allowing him to be their president and reminded them that no matter how far they travel, they'll always be connected and just a Facetime away.
"I think about social activists, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, writers, photographers, scientists, teachers, leaders, philosophers, and so much more," he said. "That said, we are the class of 2019 and we're going to change the world. We are going to make this world better than the way that we found it."
Gomez reflected on how her life changed as she moved from a small city in Ecuador to a small town in the Berkshires.
"I have been encouraged by everyone around me to take good risks. That was easier said than done," she said. Her mother had advised her to be patient as she learned to navigate this new reality. And she offered that that "there is a solution to everything. ...
"Use that challenge has an opportunity for growth. I will take this attitude with me to college where everything will be new once again."
Once presented by Knybel, the class of 2019 marched onto the lawn to toss their caps into the year and end this latest chapter of their lives.
"In this next chapter comes the option to play it safe or take the risk," Graham said. "I hope that each and every one of you will throw caution into the wind and swipe right."
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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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