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Lee Graduates Told to Proceed With Optimism, Curiosity
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
07:31PM / Saturday, June 01, 2024
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Lee High's class of 2024 toss their caps on the Tanglewood lawn after graduation ceremonies on Saturday.

Valedictorian Allen Ni urged his classmates to stay curious. Salutatorian Kira Johnson says they'll make the 'impossible possible.'  See more photos here.

LENOX, Mass. — The graduates in Lee High School's class of 2024 were encouraged to move forward with optimism and curiosity.

Fifty-seven seniors received diplomas on Saturday at Tanglewood. Valedictorian Allen Ni and salutatorian Kira Johnson have high hopes for their peers in college and beyond.

"We're going to be the generation that will make the impossible possible because what better time is there to start than now?" Johnson said, noting that some doubt her generation and think they are "doomed" and "bound to fail."

She looks to the future with optimism even though it is "scary" to imagine leaving high school after it has become "somewhat of a second home." Johnson isn't afraid of future blunders, as "making mistakes and learning from them is one of the most fun parts of the human experience."

"Many times, we sat in school thinking that this is the worst our lives can ever be like and I hope that that's true because that's one of the best worst times that we could ask for," she said.

"Thinking about how there's always a worse situation that I can be in helped me to embrace what I have and continue to try, even through the hard times, and I hope that it does the same for all of my fellow graduates. I hope that the memories and friends you've made during your time here help you to continue to thrive and prosper throughout your adult lives."

Ni recalled hearing that bananas have a small amount of radiation and this intrigued him, as he had always been told that fruit is good for you.

"Naturally, I was curious about this. I searched on trusty Google 'How many bananas will make me die from radiation?' I found out that 10 million bananas were one too many bananas for the human body but my curiosity didn't stop there. That curiosity drives me in all of my life's endeavors," he said.

"Whether this is picking which classes I want to take next year or having heated arguments in business class with my fellow classmates on whether or not humans can take on a bobcat in wrestling — the answer is still up for debate — curiosity is what has sparked myself and everyone here to grow."

He said curiosity has been a guiding light for his class and that it will continue to drive them to make great changes in the world.

"I want to encourage each and every one of you to stay curious. Keep that sense of wonder and yearning for knowledge close to your heart, even as you close this chapter of your life. Being passionate about our curiosities is what has shaped us into who we are and is what will continue to help us forge on to the next chapters of our lives," Ni said.

"Being curious allows us to grow in our own ways and is that not what life is about? Continuously growing so that we can be better versions of ourselves than we were yesterday? I like to believe that by intrinsically staying curious, we will walk on paths that inevitably lead to various opportunities whether big or small. These opportunities might not be too visible at all times and might require leadership or proactivity to reveal them but being compassionate and curious is a vital prerequisite."

Superintendent Michael Richard commended the class for navigating its own "unique set of experiences," especially the ups and downs in recent years. He pointed to the educational model "Excellence expected every day."

"Excellence isn't a destination. It's a journey," he said. "It's the way you approach life's challenges, the way that you treat others, and the way you push yourself to grow. It's about setting high standards for yourself and working diligently to meet them knowing that sometimes you'll stumble and that's OK. Every stumble is an opportunity to learn and get better."

He pointed to a couple of his "less than excellent" says such as replying all to an email with typos and attending a virtual meeting in pajama pants mistakenly thinking his bottom half wasn't seen.

"Remember that excellent isn't about being the best at everything. It's about being the best version of yourself," Richard said.

"It's about taking pride in your work, being kind and compassionate to others, and never settling for mediocrity. It's about making a positive impact in whatever you do, large or small. So as you go forth into the world, keep this in mind: excellence is expected every day not because we demand perfection but because we believe in your incredible potential."

Principal Gregg Brighenti noted that the 2024 graduates are "a truly extraordinary group of young men and women" for all their accomplishments in and out of the classroom.

"And also, perhaps mostly, for those sitting here because they honed their mathematical skills to such detail that they accurately calculated exactly what they needed to do to pass that last class no matter the anxiety that caused the adults around them."

Brighenti spoke about heroes, noting his own hero Norman Borlaug. The Nobel Peace Prize winner found a way to hybridize corn and wheat so it could be grown with a small amount of water and be extremely resistant to disease. He is known for saving the lives of more than 2 billion people who would have otherwise starved.

"My point is heroes walk among us every day, quietly making a difference in the world because of the ordinary decisions they make in their ordinary lives," he said, adding that there are heroes on the stage.

"If you made a decision to help a friend in need, to put a stop to some drama that was spiraling away online, if you helped at the food pantry, in some way, you're a hero."

He asked them to consider the outcomes of their actions as they enter what is "all too often" called the real world because those actions do matter.

Graduate Shaun Kinney led the Pledge of Allegiance, the ivy oration was done by graduate Cooper Maloney and rising senior and class marshal Ava Lopez, and the ceremony included performances from the high school's graduation band and chorus.

Scholarships and awards can be found here.

The Lee High School class of 2024

Maria Jose Anaya Gomez *†
Alex Miguel Arias
Meckenzie Lynn Baird 
Tyler James Bartini
Nicholas Michael Beckman
Ruby Mae Bermudez †
Devon Raymond Brock *
Jeremiah Kafka Chichester
Aubree Ann Condron
Conner Richard Consolati
Brian Michael Coty
Dayrahlin Marie Deane
Jackson Douglas Decker *
Marcello Del Re *†
Stephen Michael Dowd
Zebulon Joseph Drenga
Taejan Gabriel Drozd
Kaleb Thomas Durfee
Meredith Rose Dus
Angeli Tatem Faggioni *
Tanner Stephen Geoghan
Chennea Lee Ann Hanson
Emily Elizabeth Holian *
Andrew James Snow Hughes
Maryi Alexandra Jimenez
Preston Benjamin Jones
Kyle Anthony Kelly
Shaelynn Alexandra Kelly *
Shaun William Kinney
Isabella Grace Kotek *
Ashlyn Marie LaForest 
Jeffrey Conn LePrevost
Michael Brian Lillie
Emma Rose Milton
Alex Michael Navin
Zoe Wanlai Ozawa *
Yiyuan Pan *
Arianne Highley Resca *†
Nicolas Lucien Resca *†
Christopher Jeremy Rexford
Shayla Rose Santolin 
Brooks Lynn Sargent
Donald Lee Scaglione
Autumn Victoria Schwab 
Vincent Joseph Seward
Grace Young Shepard
Ely Joseph Simpson
Aidan Theodore Smith
Tyler Brenton Victor
Kali Ann Ward
Angelina Rose Williams
*National Honor Society member
†State Seal of Biliteracy recipient
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