|Grit, Perseverance Pulled Mount Everett Graduates Through Pandemic Year|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
06:55PM / Saturday, June 05, 2021
|Mount Everett sends off 48 seniors at a graduation ceremony held on the school campus on Saturday morning. |
SHEFFIELD, Mass. — The 48 graduates at Mount Everett Regional School were urged to find their truth and not to race too quickly into the future. And that grit and perseverance will get them through.
Be a little more tortoise and not the hare, salutatorian Madison Tinker cautioned the classmates she'd known since kindergarten. Instead of chasing an unknown future, as she had, take time to appreciate the present.
"Every year was just a countdown to the final year, then the final months, down to my very last days here. I turned high school into a waiting game," she said. "Rather than enjoying the moment I was in, constantly thinking about my future."
Tinker said she'd spent her time focusing on grades and not friendships. And now the day she'd waited for had arrived, but she was leaving without ever having "had the true high school experience."
"I wish I had spent more time living my life day by day, rather than constantly dwelling on my future. Besides, now I’ve learned that depending on the undetermined future is reckless. The future is unstable and uncertain. I have struggled a lot mentally because I was constantly putting so much effort into things that I had no control over," she said. "If you spend your time constantly looking into the future, you will miss the little things that are right in front of you. ...
"This story may be extremely overused, but living your life like the tortoise, and spending your days learning
about yourself and what makes you happy, is better than rushing into your future like the hare."
The graduation ceremony was held at the school for the first time in decades, as Principal Jesse Carpenter pointed out. His graduation from the Southern Berkshire Regional School District 29 years before had been at Tanglewood, as it long had been.
But this year was special in having it on the campus of the small school, Carpenter said. "Twenty-nine years ago I was where you are now, to graduate," he said. "I'm so jealous that you get to graduate here."
The event took place under a blistering sun with families spaced out in blocks as a precaution against the pandemic that's upended so many local traditions, including the Tanglewood ceremony.
It also was a difficult year for students who had to adapt to remote learning and give up a lot of the things that define a high school experience — sports, theater, music, field trips, assemblies, and dances, including the prom.
"So thinking about the last year and a half, I think we've learned three really important things during this time," Carpenter said. "The first is that grit and perseverance are two of the most important attributes a person can possess. Second, you're stronger than you ever thought you could be. OK, and third, Tiktok is dumb."
Carpenter reminded them that he had spoken to them at eighth-grade graduation as an English teacher, and while neither he nor they remembered that speech, it was probably about grit and perseverance, he said.
"Mr. Hill and I hammered into your heads how important it was to have grit and the perseverance to stick to your goals, to accomplish what you set out to do," the principal said. "The last year has been rough. However, we are showing the grit needed to it through. We've persevered, shown resiliency, and we'll be better in the future because of it."
Valedictorian Cecelia Caldwell found her grit on the stage after years of trying to make herself invisible after joining the school district in the seventh grade.
"I did what was expected of me, because I never wanted to fail, but I never went above and beyond. I never called attention to myself," she said. "I became well-acquainted with the recurring parent-teacher conference comments: 'Well, she does good work, but she's so quiet!'"
Caldwell said her place as the "shy one" was comfortable but she wasn't happy and didn't have confidence in herself. But that changed in her junior year when took on the role of the outspoken Hermia in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The change was so great that an acquaintance remarked that she seemed an entirely different person.
"The thing is, I didn’t step into a new identity when I hopped on the stage. I felt, for the first time, that I was finally living my truth," she said. "I kept a little bit of Hermia with me, because I could see myself in her more than I could see myself in me."
She's seen similar changes in her classmates who've struggled to find their truths in the face of life challenges and noted that they were about to embark on new journeys and will continue to change and evolve.
Her advice: Be yourself, be tenacious and appreciate those around you.
Graduate Malik Masters sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and several others participated for last time in band to play "Mad Dash." The diplomas were presented by Carpenter, Assistant Principal Douglas Daponde, School Committee Chairwoman Jane Burke and Superintendent Beth Regulbuto.
Burke told the graduates that the committee has been dedicated to providing them with an education that puts them on the road to success.
"It's been our primary goal that each and every one of you build the skills and knowledge that you need going forward for success in the future. So your future starts right now," she said. "And the School Committee hopes you will make your mark in the world when you leave us. And as we said before, don't forget about us. You may come back and be the principal."
Regulbuto said what she'd learned over the past 15 months was that "life is a gift, an invaluable, priceless gift. So I suggest that you live each day, boldly and passionately."
"We are confident you have the strength of character and your ability to know who you are and what you stand for as you enter this next chapter in your life," she said. "Whether we like it or not, things change, we change, the world changes. What matters is how ready you are for these moments of surprise."
Janet Ngoy Mwanza