Not a member? Become one today!
         iBerkshires     Southern Berkshire Chamber     Lee Chamber     Lenox Chamber     Berkshire Community College    
Mount Everett Class Touted as 'Little Engines That Could'
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
03:00PM / Saturday, June 01, 2024
Print | Email  

Sisters Allison Steuernagle, left, and Emily Steuernagle were the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, for the Mount Everett Reginal class of 2024.

State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli was awarded an honorary Mount Everett diploma on Saturday from Principal Jesse Carpenter. See more photos here

LENOX, Mass. — Mount Everett Regional School graduates were touted as the "little engines that could" in a world riddled with conflict.

Thirty students crossed the Tanglewood stage Saturday morning under sunny skies. School Committee Chair Bonnie Silvers explained that when writing her address to the class, she turned to the American folktale "The Little Engine That Could."

"The Mount Everett class of 2024, in my opinion, is so much like that engine. It's small but, boy, is it mighty. These students had the dubious honor of being Mount Everett eighth-graders when the pandemic began and they had to deal with every iteration of national and local edicts directing their education, closed schools, remote learning, hybrid education, combining Zoom and in-person learning, almost weekly changes in health regulations to finally returning to classes in person but with mass distancing, sanitation rules, vaccinations, and worries about additional outbreaks," she said.

"Couple all of this with the fact they've lived through a three-year merger initiative that brought a great deal of uncertainty into many of our communities and as we know, when it affects our communities, it impacts the lives of our students."

She reported never seeing so many students graduating with certificates of biliteracy, one with biliteracy with distinction. The 2024 class earned the most scholarship funds in the last seven years to colleges across the county and has completed more than 230 college credits, she said, "this type of initiative is special."

"They found their voice despite or maybe because of what was happening in the areas of adversity, pandemic, conflict, et cetera," she said.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli also pointed to the tumultuous world that the graduates have grown up in.

"Sadly, and I say it, sadly, they have never lived in a world where we have not been at war and the unrest that is experienced here today all over the world and right here at home, the political discourse that we have, the COVID experiences that you guys have experienced and survived and prospered, the 230 college degree credits, that is an amazing accomplishment," he said.

The Steuernagle sisters stood at the top of the class, with Allison Steuernagle valedictorian and Emily Steuernagle salutatorian. During her honors speech, Allison admitted that as a twin, she had been guilty of comparison counting who scored the most goals and who did the most house chores.

She told attendees that "comparison is the thief of joy" and detailed her own journey of perseverance.

"It took me nearly 18 years to realize this but since then, I find happiness in her success. Seeing her smile makes me smile, too. When you broaden your perspective and have confidence in yourself, you're able to accept the success of others. Despite all of this comparison is not horrible in every aspect of life. In fact, it can be a mode of motivation," she explained.

"At the end of my junior year, I had a conversation with my English teacher about how I was disappointed with my final grade in the class and held higher expectations for myself. He told me that I should be proud of how much I had grown from freshman year and that I must judge my present self from the perspective of my past self. I envisioned the shy girl in the back of class, afraid to say a peep, and saw myself now sitting in the front row, unafraid to answer a question. Instead of comparing myself to my classmates, I needed to look from where I started to where I am now and I realized that this is the only form of comparison in life that is valuable."

Emily said the class members have spent the last 14 years of their lives awaiting this moment — some anxious for graduation and others wishing they could turn back time.

"But nonetheless we are here today and oh, has it been a journey," she said. "We have persevered through all our late-night homework and pulled off some of the greatest academic comebacks of all time."

At the "ripe age of 18,"  Steuernagle said her adventures are limited but she has some great stories.

"Every person on this stage has encountered different experiences that have led them here today and today is the day about all of us," she added. "It is about our accomplishments as a class and the memories we have shared. It is about the end of our journey together as we each start a new chapter in our lives."

She took the class on a walk down memory lane, sharing stories of student friendships, teacher antics, and even a classmate fainting during a chorus performance.

"Now standing here today, about to graduate high school with all these unforgettable memories, I guess everything is temporary," she said. "The bad days will pass but so will the good days so be grateful for where you are and what you have. Always be willing to take on change and experience something new."

Superintendent Beth Regulbuto recognized the strength of the class, saying, "These amazing young people are faced with their own personal endeavors, managing their fears, imagining what's possible, and forging into the unknown."

Principal Jesse Carpenter started the ceremony with a laugh, explaining that he almost didn't make it because he almost got hit in front of Dunkin' Donuts by someone who was on the stage with him.

"And it got me thinking, what happened the morning of my high school graduation? Did I almost run over some old guy with coffee? And the answer is no," he said.

"But if anybody knows how you guys on stage feel, it's me. Thirty-two years ago, I sat where you are on this stage for my Mount Everett graduation and I'm sure there are many of you out in the audience who were up on the stage for your graduation as well. I'm sure many of us share the same feelings, part of us was happy to get out of high school, part of us was sad about leaving this special place, and part of us was terrified about what the future would bring. As I think back to how I felt at the time, it reminds me how special the community of Mount Everest was and still is."

He said this graduating class has a special place in his heart, as he taught some of them in the seventh grade during his last year in the classroom. For the last 20 years, he has spoken at the eighth-grade recognition night but the pandemic interrupted it for this class.

He closed by asking the graduates if they were leaving the community better than they found it.

"Whatever your answer is, I hope in your next community, be it in the workforce, the military, and college or where you choose to live, the answer is 'I left the place better than I found it.'"

Pignatelli was presented with an honor diploma for "extraordinary contributions and exemplary service."  Earlier this year, he announced that he would not be seeking re-election.

"I think 'The Little Engine That Could' is a good synopsis of how powerful this little school is," he said.  "In my 40 years in elected office, I'm honored to tell you that this is the very first time I've ever been formally invited to attend a high school graduation."

Pignatelli said he fell in love with Mount Everett 22 years ago when he joined the House of Representatives and that it was the administration's love and care for young people that struck him.

"They believed in them, they helped them they guided them, they inspired them," he said, noting that those administrators are retired but the love, passion, and inspiration continue with the School Committee and school officials in "this wonderful school.'

Regulbuto recognized the strength of the class, explaining "These amazing young people are faced with their own personal endeavors, managing their fears, imagining what's possible, and forging into the unknown."

The Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association student achievement award was given to Nathan TenBroeck, The Principals Leadership Award was given to Shira Sawyer, and the Massachusetts Superintendents Certificate for Academic Excellence was given to Allison Steuernagle.

The national anthem was sung by graduate Lucia Cicerchia and there were performances by the Mount Everett band and chorus.

Mount Everett Class of 2024

Jazmyn Lin Brady
Panhavotey Chea
Lucia Hazelton Cicerchia
Kathryn Lee Cohen
Julia Helen Devoti
Amos Clayton Duval
Kaliegh Marie Eichstedt
Jaide Nicole Evans
Alexis Swirka Gabriel
Joseph Vincent Giumarro
Donald Andre Guzman
Paul Jens Sadera Harden
Mercedes Jade Kosik
Delmar Joffre LaGrant
Megan Mary Loring
Kylie-jo Martin
Mya Maria Martin
Isaiah Joseph McLaughlin
Aiden Raymond Murray
Shira Dasia Sawyer
Kayli Smith
Tonilyn Marie Smith
Ty Michael Stalker
Allison Helen Steuernagle
Emily Margaret Steuernagle
Nathan James TenBroeck
Michael Stephen Ullrich
Ivy Wildflower Webster-Ben David
Mable Mariah Wheeler
Emma Rose Wilson

* National Honor Society

More Featured Stories is owned and operated by: Boxcar Media 102 Main Sreet, North Adams, MA 01247 -- T. 413-663-3384
© 2024 Boxcar Media LLC - All rights reserved