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Monument Mountain Class of 2024 Told to Be Best Versions of Themselves
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
07:53PM / Sunday, June 02, 2024
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A graduate takes a bow on the stage at Tanglewood on Sunday during Monument Mountain Regional High School graduation ceremonies.

Valedictorian Ariel Caine takes a moment before giving their speech on Sunday. Right, salutatorian Madeleine Rocheleau-Holmes looked to her eighth-grade speech for inspiration. See more photos here. 

LENOX, Mass. — Valedictorian Ariel "Ari" Caine struggled to come up with a speech for Monument Mountain Regional High School's class of 2024.  
They tried to spin a mystery with the crime as the "death of empathy" especially through the use of social media. But Caine said they didn't believe we are losing our humanity and that teenagers have been more than successful at resisting this pull than they are getting credit for.
"Talking about compassion and growth is nothing new for a graduation speech. And as I figured out that that was what I wanted to talk about, I'd made peace with that," they told the 104 graduates at Tanglewood on Sunday afternoon. "You've heard this message a million times and yet there has to be a reason why people still talk about it."
Caine acknowledged that there have been vile and nasty words, and even fights, within the halls of Monument, and that they'd done their fair share. 
"But I've also seen understanding. I've been complimented by students I barely knew. I've had some of the most encouraging passionate teachers ever. And even if I don't always agree with them, arguments strengthened my resolve," they said. "The discoveries I've made and things that I've learned have shaped me into the person that you see before you and I know the same has happened with all of you."
The message of compassion doesn't become less significant because logically everyone knows it's important, Caine said. 
"Everyone here will go out today and fail and stumble and make mistakes, sometimes horrible, life-changing ones and we will learn and grow and continue on," they said. "You don't have to do great things or change the world. You have to be the best version of yourself and if that's living a completely normal but compassionate life, that has its own meaning."
Salutatorian Madeleine Rocheleau-Holmes had looked back on her eighth-grade graduation speech, which had a "palpable feeling of overwhelm" as she and her classmates tried to move forward while the news was filled with pandemic stories and death statistics. 
"This speech is a spontaneous and jumbled list of memories and observations. It's filled with things I love, and things that are painful or ridiculous, but integral parts of growing up," she said, riffing on dancing in the kitchen, first opening the windows on a warm spring, sharing moments with classmates. 
"Eighth-grade me was bent on making sense of everything life through her. But I've learned it's OK to love without understanding why. Joy and simple beauty are reasons enough to cling on to experiences as I share them. I hope moments of your own will surface and you'll have something to carry with you through this particular ending."
She wondered if they also ever worried what will happen if they're cut loose — bolting into the woods or holding in place, or even wanting to be held in place. There may be a constant pressure to organize and plot trajectories, Rocheleau-Holmes said, but "like leaves and wildflowers often it is messy, unruly and magnificent."
The ceremony was a goodbye to the graduates and also to their principal, Kristina Farina, who is retiring after 34 years with the Berkshire Hills Regional School District. Farina was a math teacher at Monument for 27 years, then moved to director of learning and teaching for the school district. She was named principal in 2019, steering the Great Barrington high school through the pandemic. 
During her tenure, she pointed to the $1.5 million grant funding that was secured and partnerships with other educational leaders in the region to support and expand the work at the high school.  
"She's probably experiencing some of the same feelings you're experiencing today," said Stephen Bannon, chair of the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee, and Farina was presented with token of appreciation. He told the class that Monument has given them a solid foundation and not to look back with regrets but to look forward with anticipation and to have faith in themselves. 
"I happen to share this new beginning with all of you as this chapter comes to a close," acknowledged Farina. "Regardless of what your experience at Monument was — one of many hurdles, many successes, many sorrows or many joys are more likely some combination of those — we are leaving it behind to embark on a new journey. All of us will face hurdles and sorrows ahead and I'm confident in your ability to face these challenges ... 
"You reach demonstrated resilience and getting to this day and it is this resilience that will enable you to find more successes and joy in your life ahead."
The class marched into and out of the Shed to the school band playing "Pomp & Circumstances," and heard the school chorus sing "Change the World."
Each graduate was presented on the stage, congratulated by Farina and awarded their diploma by Bannon.
"You're the class that started high school with COVID We were quite nervous you wouldn't be grounded or connected in spite of or perhaps because of your unusual start. You really come together as a class. You've impressed us in each other in classes on fields, courts and stages, and how you stood up for what you believe in and each other," said Superintendent Peter Dillon. 
"We will miss you. The resilience and determination you've all shown will continue to serve well. Thank you for being you for being good to each other. And for all you've contributed to monument mountain. Please come back and visit and continue to inspire us."
The Monument Mountain Regional High School graduating class of 2024
Hailey Alvarez-Sorensen *
Scarlett Anderson *
Gabriela Baldwin *
Aidan Ball*
Kay'Dance Banks *
Oliver Berkowitz *
Thatcher Berman *
Shelby Birnhak *†
Cole Bissaillon
Nasciam Bowser
Henry Bradway *
Elisheva Caine *†
Luis Cambi Leon
Cody Campbell
Khalil Carlson*†
Robert Clady
Avery Carr*†
Mia Cohen*†
Rosemary Coughlin
Hunter Curletti
Garrett Curtin
Emmalee D'Aniello *
Lawson Davis *†
Amelie de la Barra *
Erin DeCelle *†
Bella deLuca *
Mia deRis
Rosaline Dohoney *†
Megan Dupont *
Mason Ernst *
Orlando Escobar *^
Conner Fennelly
Luisgabriel Fernandez *
Matthew Fox *
Nikolas Friedmutter *
Nicholas Gaughran
Brayden Gerlitz
Benjamin Gross *†
Collette Hartcorn*
Erving Henderson*†
Sam Higa*
Alex Uriel Juarez Lopez
Amaya Ketchen *
Ella Khalsa *†
Sidonie Knerr
Thomas Koldys
Marko Kononenko
Ashley Kopiec *†
Magnolia Lane
Shelby Lewis
Camerin Liebenow
Bryana Lopez *
Ray Louw *
Adam Lrhazi *
Harley Margraf
Sora Markham
Conrad Mathews*
Olivia May
Owen McDougall*
Jada McKie*†
Emily Ohmen *
Lily Osaki
Pedro Och Osorio*^
Casey Page
Harold Palacio
Nicholas Pierce
Aengus Pigott
Miranda Ralph*†^
Zambezi Rama
Zachary Rand
Michal Rave*
Emma Raymond *
Lily Reynolds*†
Livia Reynolds
Jason Roberts
Madeleine Rocheleau-Holmes*†^^
Noelia Salinetti *†
Debbie Sanchez
Ella Saupe *†
Alexander Schindler*
Marissa Simms
Annika Smedvig
Blake Smith*
Theodore St. John*†
Aiden Stanton *
Jackson Steven *
Logha Strzepa*
Ben Sweet *
Samuel Teigen*
Connor Teixeira *†
Alex Tenney *†
Samantha Tovell*
Liam Trask *†
Declan Travis *t
Samuel Trelawny-Cassity *†
Dat Truong
Alexander Turner
Bei Jia Viggiano*†
Thomas Weston *†^
Kiera Wood
Eason Zheng
Foreign Exchange Student:
Martina Font Espinosa
*Graduated with honors
† National Honor Society
^ Seal of Biliteracy
^^Seal of Biliteracy with Distinction


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