NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The 23 graduates of McCann Technical School's postsecondary programs had waited nearly two months for the chance to graduate together.
Seated apart below the school sign on the side lawn, they were ready to singly be called to pick up their diplomas and cheered by families and friends set apart in clustered seats of four.
Superintendent James Brosnan said he'd had the honor of congratulating graduates of the program for 25 years, but this was a first for him, too.
"You have accomplished what others did not and that is significant," he said. "For the rest of your lives you will always remember that because you're wearing masks, we're outside and you graduated in an exercise in August."
The class had entered the programs in the fall not knowing each other and learned to work and communicate as a team — then came the COVID-19 pandemic that forced them to switch gears in March.
"I couldn't be more proud of you, your families couldn't be more proud of, your community could not be more proud of you," Brosnan said.
School Committee Chairman Gary Rivers also pointed out how they had been forced to change their learning style to complete their programs.
But there were some benefits: they learned to be flexible, a critical workplace skill, and a glimpse into the future. He saw this as a benefit in particular for women who often have to balance the demands of home and career.
"We'd like to congratulate you for the many, many obstacles you've overcome," Rivers said.
Principal Justin Kratz announced that the recipient of the Berkshire District Dental Society Scholarship is Lauren Faucher, dental assisting, and the recipient of the Jamie Sacchetti Drennan Memorial Scholarship is Sara Lester, surgical technology.
The ceremony was missing a little of the usual pomp but the graduates were smiling and optimistic as they posed with family — and social distanced from their neighbors.
Matthew Gadson said he was taking a little time after completing the cosmetology program.
"I'm also an actor outside of school, so I figured it'd be a great way to add my creative perspective on acting with wigs and hair and makeup," he said. "I'm probably gonna take a break for a second and look around and see what I really want to do if, I want to get back into acting, or if I want to jump right into a salon. I also do a little bit of modeling."
He acknowledged that the presence of COVID-19 will making working in salons different with the new rules and regulations.
"It won't be the same as if it was like a regular day in the salon," Gadson said. "It will be interesting to say the least."
Maria Melendez is planning to further her education after an interest in medical shows steered her to surgical technology.
"When I really looked into it, it was more interesting and then once I got into the OR, I just knew I found what I wanted to do," she said. "It was so cool."
Watching a hip replacement sealed the deal and now she's considering a move south and becoming a registered nurse.
"I still have many years to go of school," Melendez laughed. "If you like the human body and you like surgery, this is the place to be."
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