PHS Class of 2023 Remembers Support in Academic Careers
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield High's class of 2023 remembered the people who supported their journey during Sunday's commencement.
The sun came out as 151 students crossed the stage to receive diplomas, leaving their "home under the dome" for new adventures in life.
"I am truly humbled looking into the crowd and seeing all the supporters of these graduates," Principal Maggie Harrington-Esko said to the expanse of family and friends on the PHS field.
"And I would like to thank you for being our partners for the past four years whether we had the opportunity to meet or not. We know that you put countless hours of support into your students, helping them through the tough times and celebrating the good times like today."
The administrator said she was honored to work with such a great class.
"When I look at this group of graduates I see in front of me I see scholars, actresses and actors, multilingual communicators, athletes and creators, world travelers, activists, and community builders. Hardworking and compassionate young adults," Harrington-Esko added.
"No matter the path that you took, you got here and you have earned the right to bask in this moment and be proud of each and every one of your accomplishments."
Class speaker Lennox Silvestro-Dias Jr. implored his fellow graduates to remember that it is other people who made this milestone truly extraordinary.
"We have not reached this point alone," he said. "We have been supported by families, teachers, and friends who have kicked, dragged, and encouraged us every step of the way. We give thanks to all the parents and caregivers, thank you for your love and guidance. To all the mothers and fathers who stayed up late at night helping us become the leaders and change-makers of tomorrow."
Silvestro-Dias also pointed out that graduation is not just about academic achievements — but about the connections that have been forged and friendships that have been cultivated along the way.
He remembered the countless memories that were made with faces in the rows, from his classmates at the old Elm Street preschool to the time that the dome flash flooded.
"We hear a lot about the plague of loneliness and how adults no longer have good friends. I can say, as a graduate of both the Elm Street preschool and PHS, wherever I walk, I walk with a posse. I am happy to say that after the COVID-19 pandemic, I have never felt more connected to a community. The strength of this community shall offer you a shoulder in any difficult humps that will come your way," he said.
"We have learned that we can get through anything as a community and come together stronger than ever. As we move forward into the next chapter of our lives, let us treasure these friendships and cherish the moments we have shared. While our paths may diverge, the bond we have formed within these halls will remain unbreakable. As we bid farewell to Pittsfield High School, let us carry with us the memories of our time here and the enduring friendships we have made."
It took class speaker Asa Chard until senior year to understand the meaning of the well-admired vines that wrap around PHS. He realized that the greenery indicated the beauty of his class.
"We began as mere buds; our feet shuffled as we crowded to enter a cloudy and distant future: four years of high school. We clamored to fit in, our voices shrill with the unavoidable squalor of puberty. Some of us shy, others overconfident, we were given a few months to align ourselves with those around us, and what we wanted to be," Chard said.
"We joined sports teams, clubs, groups for music; we made upperclassmen friends, spent long nights out experimenting and experiencing life as it never had been before. All of that came crashing down with remarkable prowess with the 'two-week vacation' that COVID-19 granted us. Reminiscing over the days spent looking at a camera, I cannot help but admire how far we have come."
He said the COVID-19 pandemic allowed the students to realize what was important in life. Returning to "normal" life came with bounds of support from peers and a renewed sense of gratitude.
"Upon returning to school full time, I watched as everything that had been lost in our year-long hiatus was re-established. Everything from clubs to student government, from sports to theatre. We longed to provide one another with the collaborative process that had been lost; longed to embrace one another as we had previously been unable," Chard explained.
"Helping each other through stress, through injury, we provided each other with support and comfort, pushing off of another to reach for the best within ourselves; reestablishing the interconnectedness that we had lost,"
"Perhaps we need to reassess the name that has been coined on our behalf, the 'Home Under the Dome.' Once a beautiful piece of 20th-century architecture, the mass of brick that inhabits 300 East St., if carefully examined, is no more than the corrosion that befell it decades ago. The dome is not what makes this place beautiful, we are. We began as no more than the sprouts that decorate this place today, struggling endlessly to discover ourselves. As we persevered, we continued to grow, finding passion, finding skills, and most importantly, finding ourselves."
Class speaker Daysha Bell emphasized that the future is not dependent on letter grades and urged her peers to shape their own futures.
"Our grades here will not define our futures, and I know that it may seem that way. We are all more than our grades. We are the people who have been raised by our parents and caregivers to be who we are today, and who we will be," she said.
One of the greatest notions my mother has taught me was to not let the world define you, rather you define yourself and who you will be; don't be a leader or a follower, rather be the difference, and I thank my mother greatly for that. We are the people our friends and family have shaped us to be, and what we will become. We are the people who our teachers have seen us grow into, and the people we will continue to be."
On the note of teachers, she gave the school staff a warm farewell and thanked them "endlessly" for what they have done for the school and the students who have had the pleasure of knowing and being taught by them.
"We do not need to have our lives set in stone today so live your life as you feel to do so, and be what you want to be. Something I'd like to say to all of you is that it's okay to make mistakes and not be perfect, that's the beauty in being human," Bell advised.
"So take those risks because this is the time to do so. Nothing is ever permanent. We all have amazing futures ahead of us and I can't wait to see the numerous forms they come to us in but as of right now let's live in the present and celebrate who we are and how far we've all come. Once again, congratulations to the class of 2023 and we stand strong together."
Taibat Ahmed was given the Karl Boyer McEachron Award for outstanding academic achievement, community and extracurricular involvement, dedicated work ethic, and an expressed preference for making engineering or science a lifetime career.
This award is given annually to a graduating PHS or Taconic High School senior and this year came with a $1,200 scholarship.
During the ceremony, the PHS band performed "Danny Boy" by Samuel Hazo, the PHS chorus performed "The Song of Purple Summer," and Katerina Livermore and Geivens Dextra performed Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor by J.S. Bach.
More information on the PHS class of 2023's top GPA students and awards can be found here.
Pittsfield High School Class of 2023
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