Daniel MacWhinnie, chosen to speak by his fellow graduates, compared the classmates to trees that set down good roots at Mount Greylock which will allow them to grow. See more photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Before they branched out into the "real world," Mount Greylock's graduating seniors were reminded of just how treelike they really are.
"When a tree is just beginning to grow, it's just a seedling," Daniel K. "Hoby" MacWhinnie told his classmates. "Seedlings need a good environment to grow, just like ourselves.
"As the years move along, we start to grow and develop good roots."
Grounded in their education from Mount Greylock Regional School, the 80 members of the Class of 2018 received their diplomas on Saturday morning at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.
But first, they heard some parting words from MacWhinnie, the speaker chosen by his fellow seniors, Ric Donati, the selection of the school's faculty, and Principal Mary MacDonald.
MacDonald told the former "seedlings" that she and the faculty were fortunate to see the class transform and grow.
And she reminded the soon-to-be graduates that the roots they formed at the school included a sense of responsibility that she encouraged them to take into the next phases of their lives.
"As we launch you into your new worlds, I not only encourage you to carry lessons from your past but also implore you to take responsibility for your words and actions," MacDonald said. "We are living in a world where it has become too easy to 'disappear' social media posts with self-destructing, secret apps like Snapchat. … We live in a world where responsibility is too loosely held.
"I ask you to shift this trend. Be aware. Take responsibility. Inevitably, we all make mistakes and apply poor judgement. Rise from those errors. Do not dismiss them or pass their faults onto others. Rise and take ownership of your words and deeds."
Saturday's ceremony — moved off campus because of the construction project at the middle/high school in Williamstown — included the annual presentation of awards to seniors who rose above and beyond in particular subject areas.
Awardees this year included Sabrina T. Templeton (English), Isabelle Camille Bote (history), Samuel Wright Culver (mathematics), Maia Simone Hirsch (science), Jacob Robert Hane (foreign language), Samuel Blair Dils (Latin), Alex Patrick Babock (art), Madison Avery VanDeurzen (music), DiMaggio Anthony Paris (business technology) and Aleya Shea Cappadona and Paris (wellness).
In addition, five students were called out for high school records that "indicate the most outstanding promise of success in higher education." Dils, Josephine Clara Gollin, Hirsch, VanDeurzen and Lilliana Sky Wells received those honors.
The ceremony was complemented by music from the Mount Greylock concert band, under the direction of teacher Lyndon Moors and the middle/school high school chorus, under Ouisa Forhaltz, who performed "Morning Has Broken" and "You Are the New Day."
The graduates took time to recognize several members of Mount Greylock's staff, calling out senior adviser P.J. Pannesco, awarding the Teacher of the Year honor to English teacher Matthew Fisher and remembering an administrator who missed their senior year with an "excused absence" of his own.
"[Assistant Principal Jacob] Schutz is not with us right now," Connor O. McClanan told the large crowd of families and friends. "He is currently overseas serving with the National Guard, helping to protect our country. We'd just like to thank Mr. Schutz because he's always been there with all of his discipline. Hopefully, most of us haven't had to deal with that.
"We have deeply missed his great personality and his smiling face showing up in our classes, in the hallways and at our sporting events. We would like to thank Mr. Schutz for his service at Mount Greylock and his service to our country."
Schutz is just one example of how the faculty and staff at Mount Greylock support students after the bell rings, Donati said.
"An OK teacher is able to teach class," Donati said. "A good teacher might also ask how a performance or game was last night and get to know you as an individual. Our teachers are so amazing that they don't need to ask because they were there, watching. That's something that's special about the Mount Greylock community that's only possible through the passion and dedication of our staff."
Donati also talked about a special quality of the school's Class of 2018, which, he said, is not defined by cliques or status.
"Eighth-grade year, when everybody was still trying to find their identity, I would sit at a different lunch table each day," Donati said. "Every time, the people I sat with were so friendly and welcoming that I felt like I'd sat there the whole year.
"We aren't organized and confined by social groups — jock, nerd, theater, etc. That's not us. Our class is more of a web, where people become entangled with a diverse group of others through a variety of interests. That's one of the things that makes our grades so special."
Fisher, after accepting the Teacher of the Year honor, said he appreciated Donati's choice of the web metaphor to describe the class, and wished the seniors luck.
"I've said to you for four years that I would never trade places with you," Fisher said. "This is one of those moments when I might think about that a little. This is a fun time. Enjoy it."
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