Class President Trista Dearstyne says the class of 2019 is ready to enter the adult world. See more photos here.
LENOX, Mass. — Pittsfield High School's class of 2019 is ready to be held accountable.
That's what Superintendent Jason McCandless wants from the students -- to hold themselves accountable. That means being reflective about their words or actions, looking at themselves before blaming others, fix what they've broken, be true to their work, keep promises, show gratitude, ask for help when needed and return the favor, and be kind.
"We do want you to leave the world better than you found it but to do this you must leave here today with renewed dedication to taking responsibility each and every moment of each and every day for your own behavior," McCandless said to the class at Sunday's graduation at Tanglewood.
McCandless that is the key to not only healthy lives but healthy communities.
"If a society is to function in a compassionate, economically viable, and sustainable way, the foundation has to be personal responsibility, taking care of your own business and your own family," the superintendent said.
Class President Trista Dearstyne believes the class is ready. She said entering the adult world is scary but because of the lessons they learned in high school has prepared them for it. She said the students can succeed in college, in the military, or in careers
"Today we become accountable for ourselves. Whether we already are or will be in a short time adults, for 18 years of our lives we had parents who guided us and molded us to who we are today. We had older siblings to look up to and learn from their mistakes, we had teachers who held our hand and cared so much for our future and success. But today is the day we must start doing these things for ourselves," Dearstyne said.
Class speaker Alexander Hawkins reflected on all of the successes the students had in sports, in drama, in academics, and outside of the classroom.
"We chose to be Generals -- not Braves, not Mounties, certainly not Millionaires. We took the risk of living under the dome and I think it paid off. Now it is 2019 and we are a class of 171 students," Hawkins said.
He later said, "We made a choice four years ago to express ourselves as generals and look where we are now. We cheer for each other at pep rallies and social events, we work and play together, we help others, we entertain, we challenge each other on the fields and in the classrooms. Together as the class of 2019, we finally made it. We are the generals and PHS will always be our home."
Principal Henry Duval said this class was particularly unique in its accomplishments as the focus hadn't been on PHS students because of the new Taconic High on the other side of town.
"You took a year that began with the opening of a shiny new school across town and the transfer of your principal for your first three years of high school to that new school. While Taconic got all of the press coverage, you seniors at PHS persevered," Duval said.
"You worked hard in the classroom, took numerous advanced placement courses, honing job skills in vocational programs and creating sublime artwork. You competed with great energy on the athletic fields and courts. You performed with exuberance in the theater and on concert stages. You debated serious issues with passion."
Wherever they go, Mayor Linda Tyer hopes they seek out adventures. She detailed the book "The Hobbit" about Bilbo Baggins choosing to go with the wizard Gandolf on an adventure. She said being open to adventures will "enrich your life beyond your wildest imagination."
Tyer said courage is not the absence of fear but being afraid and going forward anyway. By doing that, the students will come wiser and stronger as they move through life.
"Whatever you are doing be hyper-focused on the moment, savor everything, the wins, the losses, and the in between. Be excellent in all of your endeavors, exceed your potential," Tyer said.
School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon hopes the students find happiness.
"Everyone here is looking for the same thing, happiness. So what is happiness and how can you find it? Is it found in the material, a big job, a big home, a big car, a big bank account? I'm sure many people think so. However, John McCain, Vietnam war hero and United States senator from Arizona and passed away last August, believed differently. He said 'it is your character and character alone that will determine if you are happy or not and you choose it,'" Yon said.
It is character that will drive them, she said, and character is what will change the world.
"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 included the concert band playing "Bryce Canyon Overture," the orchestra playing "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral," and the chorus singing "A Million Dreams" with such emotion it drew applause from the audience as the chorus members began to choke up in the middle. The students then were given their diplomas from Tyer as beach balls were tossed around. The graduates then exited Tanglewood's Shed to celebrate with family and friends.
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