CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley High School class of 2020 was asked to define its own future.
Salutatorian Riley Robinson addressed her 65 classmates on Tuesday night and said although the pandemic has taken so much away from them it will make them all stronger.
"The things that we missed out on and the year that was taken away from us so soon does not define us. We define it," she said. "The class of 2020 will take this year and become better human beings because of it ... so I challenge every student in front of me today to take this year and grow from it."
The class of 2020 held off on holding a graduation ceremony this spring as other schools went forward with virtual ceremonies and other acknowledgments in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The ceremony was held on the football field and families were spaced out to ensure social distancing.
Robinson thanked her family and friends as well as the teachers and administration who provided a "constant flow of snacks, ringing of cowbells" and "high fives" when it was needed the most.
Shen went on to challenge the class of 2020, in whatever their pursuits may be, to make the world a better place.
"You have already proven that you can handle being in the abyss and yet finding your way out. I challenge all of you to make this a better world for all to live in," she said. "... I challenge you to take your talents and apply yourself to find new vaccines or cures for disease, to make music that will make people dance and sing along, to find new means of communication through software or web-based services. One last thing, whatever you do you must follow your passion."
Class President Jacqueline Case admitted that she was not prepared for her class address and decided to speak from her heart. She thanked her teachers, the administration, and specifically her mom -- Principal Colleen Byrd.
Case said most of all she wanted to thank the class of 2020.
"I would not want to be part of or graduate with any other class than these people right here," she said. "Because I can just feel that each and every single one of them is going to do something great."
She went on about her time at Hoosac Valley and said she learned the importance of making the right decision. She said it may not always be the most popular decision but urged her class to be guided by what makes them feel good.
She listed the achievements of her classmates and said she was excited to see what the future holds for them all
"I am just so honored to be part of this class and all of the great memories," she said. "I always felt welcomed and like I belonged and I really feel like that is something I can carry on for the rest of my life ... I can’t wait to see all of the great things my classmates do.."
Valedictorian Daniel Pompi commented on the strangeness of graduating on the football field and noted the pandemic has forced not only the class of 2020 but the world to adapt.
He said the class must "stay strong" and attempt to change the world's course.
"I think the single best adjective to describe our class would be persistent. This persistence will be crucial as we graduates are tasked with developing innovative ways to become successful in this new and ever-changing world post-pandemic," he said. "We will be filling jobs that have never been seen, and some of us may even conduct research on combating the pandemic."
He then recollected the class of 2020's time at Hoosac Valley starting with the inaugural hike up Mount Greylock. He called back to games won, school trips, band performances, musicals, and just spending time together in lunch.
He also thanked the teachers, staff, and families who helped the class of 2020 along the way.
Pompi said even though COVID-19 seems to have "turned the world against" the class of 2020, they should not let it define them.
"We must not let this pandemic define us, nor let it overshine our years together," he said. "It is crucial to remain persistent through whatever we may be faced with in our future, just as we have proved able throughout our years at Hoosac Valley."
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Cheshire Selectmen Eye Salary Increases in FY21 Budget
By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The fiscal 2021 budget preparation dominated at Tuesday night's Selectmen's meeting.
Aside from reviewing the Board of Health and Council on Aging operating budgets, the board discussed at length what some members see as stagnant salaries for many town positions.
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV recently undertook a salary study with input from the Massachusetts Municipal Association's Human Resources department. Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi feels Cheshire has fallen behind other similar communities in compensating it's employees.
"Based on feedback that we received at the town meeting last year, a concerted effort has been made by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee towards improving the overall salary structure of our town. We have been undercompensating our employees, we do recognize that, and it's something we are looking to address," she said to the virtual attendees.