LENOX, Mass. — Lenox Memorial High School graduated 61 seniors on the school's campus Sunday surrounded by friends, family, and sunshine.
Ceremony speakers focused on the positives that have come out of COVID-19 rather than dwelling on the negatives of the past year and a half.
Salutatorian Jenna Codey said she was "dead set against even the slightest mention of COVID-19" when she began to write her speech but could not ignore the transformative experience of living through a pandemic.
"For most of my life, the thesaurus of my brain connected the concept of change with words like danger,' vulnerability, and loss. After all, there is comfort in consistency," she said. "As humans, we find safety in what we know. Even the parts of our lives that are inevitably frustrating, boring, or sad are often alright, because we wake up expecting them. If things change, our shield of stability is shattered. ...
"If I wrote a speech about change, and failed to mention the most massive transformation that we as a collective group have experienced together, wouldn't I be falling victim to the fear that surrounds change?"
Codey encouraged her classmates to shift their perspectives to embracing change rather than fearing it.
"If we spent our whole lives running away from what could go wrong, we wouldn't be where we are today, in fact, we would still be the same nervous middle schoolers that walked into the building years ago. Without change, there is no growth," she said.
"It is a beautiful thing that we can constantly evolve to better versions of ourselves. At any instant, we can be kinder individuals, more knowledgeable students, and find new passions and things that bring us joy. Without change, we may remain comfortable, but we also lose out on the possibility of excitement and opportunity."
Valedictorian Cooper Shepardson was able to step back from his previously grueling schedule of school and sports during the pandemic to spend more time doing hobbies that make him happy. In his opinion, being successful in life means being happy.
"When I started high school, my priorities were school and then other things that made me happy. However, after my four years of high school, and this year especially, my priorities have changed," he said. "Looking back on this past year, I have gained a lot from this experience and I actually had a really great year, this is because I made sure that I did things that brought me joy rather than waiting to have time to do things that made me happy."
He spoke on his love for fishing and hunting, which he was able to do more of while in virtual learning.
"Many people here may know this and some may not, but I love hunting and fishing. I used to just go hunting occasionally on weekends because I never had time to hunt on weekdays due to school and sports," Shepardson said. "However, this year, with there being no sports and doing school remotely, I was able to go hunting much more often. One day, rather than waiting for the weekend, I decided to go ice fishing in the morning during school. I brought all of my school work with me and had a great time. I still got all of my school work done while I was enjoying fishing."
Shepardson urged his classmates to make sure they are doing what makes them happy in the "real world" after graduation. He spoke of his grandfather as a role model for living a life of joy.
"When I think of someone who lived their life by doing things that made them happy, I think of my grandpa," he said. "Similar to me, he found joy in fishing and hunting among many other things. He didn't make billions of dollars or have an amazing job. Instead, he worked at a paper mill however, I would still say that he lived a very successful life, this is because he did things that brought joy to his life."
Also in the ceremony, Samuel McCaffrey and Abigail Murphy delivered class reflections. McCaffrey recited a poem about the Lenox High class of 2021 and Murphy spoke on the memories that she and her peers have crafted in their time together.
Graduate Logan Weibrecht sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Principal Michael Knybel explained that the school's Active Minds club last week wrote words of encouragement on campus sidewalks and the phrase that stood out the most to him was: "You have survived 100 percent of your bad days."
"The class of 2021 proved they were equipped with a positive mindset," he said. "For 16 months, you were thrown into a roller coaster of unknown changes in learning changes in the instructional delivery, and you were not given a great deal of training, no one ever told you to go fishing while doing class, but here we are ready to graduate the entire class. No one is left behind."
Interim Superintendent William Cameron applauded the students for persisting through a time when their resiliency, creativity, patience, ingenuity, and basic decency were challenged in a way that no other graduating class had been.
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.
Berkshire County Summer Camps Receive Funding Boost
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
BECKET, Mass. — Summer camps took a significant hit during the past year and the Massachusetts delegation has stepped up to support them as they welcome back eager campers.
State Senator Adam Hinds visited the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA Friday with a giant check for $3,000,000 in hand for summer camps across the state - including $700,000 for camps in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden districts.
"This has been a rough year, as we all know. A year and a half with basically camps going more than a year without income, and we know very well that in Western Mass and in the Berkshires, especially, that camps play such a critical role for so many things, our economy, our seasonal economy, for childcare, for the mental health of our students, and, and on and on and on," Hinds said. "And so in talking with Mass camps and talking about specific camps, it was it was very clear that we needed to make sure that the Massachusetts COVID response also focused on our camps."
The check was addressed to the Mass Camping Association. The association includes 1,400 camps in the state. It is part of funding Hinds secured through an amendment in the FY20 Supplement Budget.
State Senator Adam Hinds visited the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA Friday with a giant check for $700,000 in hand for summer camps in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden districts. click for more
Pittsfield's Emmanuel Nda broke a meet record and helped the Generals break into the top 10 at Saturday's Central/Western Massachusetts Division 1 Championships at Westfield State University. click for more