Valedictorian Jake Lyons describes high school as a slog through a dark until senior year, when he and classmates climbed out into the sun.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The graduates of Monument Mountain Regional High School gathered together to celebrate their collective achievement on Sunday morning.
But not at The Shed at Tanglewood, and not really together. The 103 graduates arrived separately by car to the school and then joined in vehicle parade after a pre-recorded graduation shown on Community Television for the Southern Berkshires.
"When it's safe, we'll all come together to celebrate you in person," said Peter Dillon, superintendent of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, in the video as he thanked the graduates and their families for their grace and patience during a difficult few months.
Monument, like so many high schools across the nation, has been forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to find alternatives to their traditional ceremonies. Some are waiting until after July 19, when the state will allow outside ceremonies, doing virtual events or a combination.
The video was put together over five days by Paul Kakley of the school's audio/visual department. It included the recorded speeches, photos taken of the graduates and their families in small groups and graduates receiving their diplomas and shifting their tassels — one by one.
Science teacher Scott Annand, selected as the faculty speaker by the students, said he found it hard to address an empty auditorium. So he made pictures of the graduates to post in their seats.
"When I started doing that I got emotional. I saw wonderful smiles, different personalities, headshots, animals, cups of coffee, wild hats," he said. "And I said, 'what a remarkable group.' And I am so happy to be in front of them today."
He said to have hope, heart and resilience. To keep connections and build bridges. To be thankful of the people, places and things in their lives and to appreciate this school and administration that had worked to make this day special.
"Monument class of 2020 celebrate your day. Celebrate your history. You will remember it. Thanks for all that you've done for me. And I hope in some small way, I've done something for you to make your time at monument. Better go make your mark on the world," Annand said, then posed briefly to show he what he wears during virtual classes — pajama bottoms.
Salutatorian Adam Boscarino said he found inspiration from two of his teachers as he put his speech together. Science teacher Aaron Fisher had once said, "there's no reward without risk," when he was stressing out with a difficult Advanced Placement physics course.
"I began to stop viewing stress as this thing that was constantly weighing me down, and rather something doing exactly the opposite: Lifting me up and raising opportunities for even greater success," Boscarino said. "Yes, studying for tests can be stressful. But isn't that stress what makes it interesting?"
After all, he said, if tasks were easy they'd all be bored. "Stress is simply that signal that's telling you there's risk involved — when there's risk involved, you know, there must be a reward," he said.
Secondly, social studies teacher and cross country coach Edward Collins had said something about the point where you begin to feel tired is where you really start working.
"This quote is what inspires me to keep pushing, whatever it may be that I've been doing," Boscarino said. "It's the tasks that are hard, the ones that make you stressed and tired, the offer the most in the end. ...
Salutatorian Adam Boscarino, sitting in teacher Edward Collins classroom, says the class was an awakening for him.
"At the end of the day, the world is what it is and will simply not change on it's own. It's up to us to put in the risk, and have the faith in our beliefs that amounts to the changes we'd like to see in the world."
Principal Kristi Farina said 75 percent of the class was going on to postsecondary school, with the rest beginning careers, entering the service or taking a year off. All together, they are getting $285,000 in local scholarships.
Valedictorian Jake Lyons compared the graduates' entry into high school as falling unexpectedly through a manhole into a dark and dirty space.
"Freshman year, for many of us, is a step in the dark," he said. "You're quite unsure of what to expect. I know I was. But if you try hard enough, turn in your work, when you find success you repeat the process, so your freshman year is a discovery."
Lyons described a long slog of uncertainty, work and stress, but also opportunities and risks. Then, senior year, climbing out of the hole and "walking in the summer breeze."
"I think this is how many of us spent our senior year, finally finding ourselves again, or at least starting the way back up," Lyons said. "There's no denying that Monument put us through the wringer. We've seen the light and the dark. We studied hard and we're completely winded. We've grown apart from friends and we've made new ones, and God knows we've lost out on sleep. But by coming through at all, we're better off."
He said he found strength in fostering healthy relationships and that learning wasn't just textbooks. He thanked his family, teachers and friends.
"They taught me to pick myself up, brush off the dust and keep walking knowing that every fall is just another step in the journey," said Lyons. "Our mistakes bring opportunities for us to learn most. No matter what it is we all go on to do, we will without a doubt use the hard-earned lessons we've learned here."
Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee Chairman Stephen Bannons closed the video by saying the class of 2020 is exceptional, and has perhaps "endured more hardship" than any previous in the school's history. He encouraged them to take pride in their accomplishments and consider that education is more than classroom work — it's life experience and involvement in community.
"This is not the graduation you or your family envisioned when this school year began," he said. "Do not let the lack of pomp and circumstance take away from what you have accomplished. The physical location of your graduation does not diminish your accomplishments."
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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Police arrested a New York man who allegedly robbed a disabled person outside of a cannabis dispensary.
According to a press release sent out Monday, investigators charged Shane Adams, age 21, of Pine City, N.Y., with Unarmed Robbery and Assault and Battery on a disabled person.
Around 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, a customer reported that while walking through the parking lot after having made a purchase at Theory Wellness on Stockbridge Road, two men confronted him. One pushed him, ripped the product from his hands, and fled in a car.
The victim is disabled and was using crutches, and the victim's wife provided police with a license plate number.
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