Valedictorian Jack Minella reminds the class of the 'amazing things' they did and tells them they are not defined by COVID-19. See more photos here.
DALTON, Mass. — Wahconah Regional High School sent off the class of 2020 with all the pomp and circumstance it deserved on Saturday night.
But the school's 59th ceremony, like so many other graduations this year, was far from the norm.
"We're gathered here today for this unprecedented event to pay final tribute to the Wahconah class of 2020," said Principal Aaron M. Robb, speaking to the 117 graduates and their families spread out across the Warriors' football field under a setting sun.
Wahconah had opted to delay graduation exercises until it was considered safe enough to bring everyone together — a gathering that was still limited because of the novel coronavirus. Everyone wore masks, stayed in their respective "pods" outlined on the field, and stayed 6 feet apart.
Valedictorian Jack Minella joked how his mother had predicted all the speeches would be about vision for the year 2020, not anticipating a pandemic would turn the end of the school year upside down. Or that he would be giving one of those speeches.
"Now it feels impossible to imagine what it would be like to have concluded the year normally," he said. "Presently, our entire high school experience feels like it was defined by COVID-19 because we're still living through it. We missed out on the usual celebratory culmination of our scholastic careers and it's hard to think back to the time before March 13th when we could sit together in classrooms and go to basketball games."
They could take some solace, Minella said, in "the amazing things" they had done before their senior was interrupted.
"We've spent the past four years at Wahconah being inspired by our amazing teachers, by our coaches, and by each other. In the time we've been away we've grown somewhat disconnected from each other and our normal academic routines, but we have not lost sight of our amazing community," he said. "The old building we're leaving behind will have its place taken by a newer, sleeker one — one without a leaky roof or collapsing ceiling tiles — and in a few years the campus will in all likelihood be almost unrecognizable. But we'll still have our memories of our time here. We're all about to rise to a new stage in life, but we will be doing so with the help of the foundation we built here."
Class President Kevin Huban also pointed to the class's achievements "from award-winning athletes to talented actors and musicians to kind-hearted and driven members of extracurriculars. Our class has done it all."
That was back when the world was simpler — before COVID-19.
"There was a time when we weren't sure this day would even be possible. The novel coronavirus has greatly influenced our world, bringing with it insurmountable, and unprecedented challenges," he said. "Back then, we were almost innocent. And we had a childlike naivety that led us forward, each day. But unfortunately, our worldly surroundings have forced us to mature at a rate much greater than those classes before us. We can all admit that making it here to this very day was no easy feat."
He told the gathering to look toward the grassy incline on the fields east side, and referred to a saying Robb had coined in a previous address to the class, to "take it to the hill." As Warriors, they will all have to "take to the hill" at some pont, facing adversity and stumbles as they pursue their "dreams, desires and happiness."
"We all will diverge on different paths. But it is certain that we will all encounter hardships. My fellow classmates, promise me one thing. If you get knocked down, get back up," Huban said. "Let our presence today be an example of perseverance, because today, classmates and guests, look down, take a breath and admire the view, because we have made it to the top of Warrior Hill."
At the end of the ceremonies, Robb was given a large framed photo of football players on the hill with the saying "Running the Hill" on it. He promised it would hang in his new office in the new Wahconah that was rising to the east of the football field.
Salutatorian Catherine Boino also spoke to the good memories that the class had shared during its progress through the Central Berkshire Regional School District, sharing reminiscences she'd solicited from classmates about trips, classes, musicals, dances and pranks.
Paraphrasing Edith Eva Eger, author of "The Choice: Embrace the Possible and survivor of Auschwitz," she described the "unique and memorable mental scrapbook" that each member of the class would be taking with them.
"It's little memories like these that will be important to us as time goes on. And as we reach the next milestones in our lives we will be able to add to this scrapbook, forming the scrapbook of our life that Edith Eger was referencing," she said. "Although we may end up in 117 different places, we will share one part of our scrapbook, the beginning.
"Someday we will be able to look back at the beginning of our scrapbook to measure our growth and appreciate the experiences that we were able to have together. Especially during this pandemic. I know that many of us are disappointed that we didn't have the ending to our senior year that we expected but in 20 years we may be grateful for this time. ... This pandemic has created new and unexpected memories for many of us, making our scrapbook even more special."
The graduates were called up row by row to the low stage, where they picked up their diplomas from a table and turned to pose for pictures. Parents were allowed to meet them as they came off the stage for photos and exercises ended with the graduates joining their family "pods" and leaving the field as their names were called.
Robb called the graduation logistics as "uncharted territory" and thanked those who had made it happen, from class advisers, staff, volunteers such as John Williams who setup the Facebook livestream and sound, and parents.
"You're sitting here today is a testament to the hard work, creativity, resilience, and perseverance, that you have shown during these uncertain times," said Superintendent of Schools Leslie Blake-Davis. "I want to thank our Central Berkshire families, staff and community members for all of the love and support you have shown our graduates that has taken on so many different forms."
Robb told the graduates that the class night was to celebrate them as individuals and senior assembly as a collective group. But graduation was for families as the fulfillment of one of the first two major milestones, with the being marriage.
Principal Aaron Robb had the graduates think of a time when their families gave them joy and support; and the families of when the graduate made them proud. He urged them to tell each other right away about those moments.
"My fundamental, primary concern is that you leave us today with the desire to be better, to do better, and to reach beyond whatever preferred newsfeed you have, and dig beneath the issues that we face so that you can truly understand what plagues us," he said. "And that — no pressure — go try and fix that stuff."
Turn opinions into actual research, Robb told them, research based on credible sources and then turn that research into action, and actions into a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.
"The reality is we're not going to see many of you again after today. So I want those words to be the last ones you hear from me. Graduates, class of 2020 on behalf of the staff of Wahconah Regional High School, I want you to know just how proud we are of you. You've weathered a lot. And I'm sure you'll weather a lot more down the road. With that, I wish you nothing but the very best. As you set out to start your new lives, I can't wait to see you in action."
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
DALTON, Mass. — The Community Recreation Association's (CRA) Rotary Interact Group will hold the 12th Annual Community Coat Giveaway on Saturday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 6, from 9 am to 2 pm to benefit neighbors in need.
The Giveaway will be located at Mill + Main, A CRA Property, 444 Main Street in Dalton. Coats will be free of charge and a donation is not necessary to receive a coat. Masks and social distancing will be required.
Collection boxes are located at the CRA, DYC, Dalton Town Hall, St. Agnes Academy, Kelly's Package Store, LP Adams, and Hinsdale Trading Post to gather new or gently warn coats, jackets, hats, gloves, and mittens.
For more information, please contact the CRA at 684-0260 or visit daltoncra.org.
The board of directors of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Friday voted to start the winter sports season no earlier than Dec. 14 and to move wrestling to the spring in hopes that the sport will have a path to competitions later in 2021. click for more
On Thursday, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to accept the recommendation of its Tournament Management Committee and not hold any postseason tournaments in the upcoming winter season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. click for more
On Friday morning, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association released the sport-specific modifications that on Thursday unanimously were approved by the associationís COVID-19 Task Force. click for more