PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The seniors at Taconic were known as the "class of change" and lead the way to break in the new school.
The new Taconic was opened for classes for the first time this year and the nickname "class of change" was given to the seniors. They were the ones to break in the new structure while watching the school that had spent the previous three years be torn down.
"If I went back in time and told my freshman self that she'd come to miss all of that, she probably would have slapped me. But, falling ceiling tiles and antifreeze smelling hallways and all, we grew to love that place. It was the home of the Braves which made it all the more painful to watch it be torn down, day in and day out, once we transitioned into the new building," said Valedictorian Trisha Victor.
Victor said that experience helped prepare the students for Sunday's graduation where they said goodbye to high school as a whole. She encouraged her classmates to embrace what may lay ahead.
"From this point on, we have vastly different paths before us - college, trade school, the military, careers - each one with its own share of challenges. And from where we are right now, in this gym, we don't know exactly what's ahead of us, whether it's immedate success or the worst moments of our lives, no one of us can say for sure," she said.
"Just as a ship was built for the seas beyond the harbor, we were meant for more than what we see as safe. Whether success or failure lies beyond those doors, we owe it to ourselves to find out."
Victor's address to her classmates at the Boys and Girls Club touched on many of the same themes are others who spoke - themes of breaking in the new school, uncertainty, and adventure ahead.
"What's important to remember though is that the home of the braves is not comprised of bricks and cement. It's comprised of all of us. We are the home of the braves and whether we're across the driveway or across the country, we always will be," said Salutatorian Kailey Sultaire.
"The building itself, while it will forever hold a special place in our hearts, was not the reason why many of our sports teams have won Western Mass titles or even state championships in some cases. It wasn't the reason that BPA took home countless awards each year or why SKills USA continuously impressed us with the knowledge they have in their various fields. It wasn't the reason that we had musicals on our stage worthy of a Tony or a man pageant that made us laugh so hard we started to cry. We were able to accomplish all of these things because of the Taconic spirit that is alive in all of us."
While the seniors now move on Sultaire said, "one thing that won't change, though, even for the class of change, is the fact that we will forever be Taconic Braves."
Superintendent Jason McCandless said while the students will have more memories of the old school, the administration will remember the class for what they did to open the new one.
"Thank you, class of 2019, for opening this new school, we know it wasn't easy. You experienced the hurt of watching your old school that in spite of its challenged you love, you wanted it to vanish and we know that was hard. You helped us and were key players in helping us through many growing pains," McCandless said.
The ceremony departed somewhat from tradition on Saturday as Deputy Superintendent Joseph Curtis have an address. Typically McCandless would provide an address but McCandless kept his remarks brief and allotted his time to Curtis, who started in Pittsfield as a principal at Morningside when this class was young. He said 40 of the students from the class were Morningside students during his time.
Curtis said he's been through a lot of changes since his days as a principal. He encouraged the students to take risks and fail, just as he had in those days. But, it was through those failures which made him better and eventually, thanks to the test scores those 40 students took in fifth grade, Morningside was a level 1 school and commended by the state.
"I don't know if one person has the potential to change the world anymore but I know for sure if we all strive to take risks to possibly fail and overcome failure we would do that. Each one of you will fail and will fail many times over. Failure brings struggle, failure bring reflection, failure brings refinement," Curtis said.
He also told the students to embrace human relationships. He said good relationships aren't just liking a post on social media but close interaction. There was a time when he didn't do that and he learned from that.
"Human relations are not to be confused with being known. Being known does not equate to supportive relationships," Curtis said.
Deputy Superintendent Joseph Curtis spoke because the class is filled with students he had known since they were in kindergarten.
Mayor Linda Tyer told the students to take on adventures. She said it was never in her plan to become a mayor but 15 years ago she was asked to go on an adventure and now her life is better than she ever imagined.
"I graduated from high school a really long time ago and since then, as you've heard others say today, I've made some mistakes, things that I regret, and mostly because I was afraid of accepting an opportunity or an adventure. Those are the lost opportunities of my life because I let uncertainty be my guide and I held on too tightly on my plan. These days I am much better at recognizing adventure and I am braver at chasing them down," Tyer said.
"Becoming mayor was not part of my plan but one day about 15 years ago I accepted an adventure that changed the course of my life. And in pivoting away from my plan - which by the way was kind of boring - I am privileged and honored to be your mayor. I have living proof that accepting adventures will enrich your life beyond your wildest imagination."
School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon reflected on character, saying character is what will make the difference between a happy life or an unhappy life.
"We want you to be the best person you can be," Yon said. "Unfortunately you have grown up in turbulent times in a society that has been plagued by violence. I hope that you will make your voices heard loud and clear that this is not the message you want to send in the future. So do something else, choose character and change the world."
The ceremony also featured welcoming remarks from Principal Matthew Bishop, the singing of "I Lived" by the Taconic Chorus, presentation of awards, and the presentation of the diplomas. And with confetti flying about, the students left the gymnasium and poured out onto Melville Street to celebrate with family and friends.
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