|Self-Care, Community Are Focuses at BArT Graduation|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
04:31PM / Saturday, May 29, 2021
|BArT Charter graduated 30 members of its class of 2021 on Saturday morning at Windsor Lake in North Adams.|
Hugging was back at the first Berkshire County high school graduation of 2021 on Saturday. See more photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Let others stop and smell the flowers.
On Saturday, the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School class of 2021 was told to stop and be the flowers.
Cameron James Langsdale, who was chosen to offer one of the graduation ceremony's senior reflections, worked his speech around the metaphor of a lotus flower emerging from the mud.
One of his messages to his fellow graduates: They all have emerged from a muddy senior year marred by masks and social distancing and Zoom classrooms.
Langsdale's other message: Self-reflection and self-care should always be on their to-do list.
"Stop," Langsdale said. "When we are at our lowest points in life, it seems instinctual to stop and put aside our responsibilities … to think about what we're doing. These moments trigger us to think deeply about ourselves, 'Who am I? What am I doing with myself? What will I do?' In an entirely non-physical moment, we have a conversation with ourselves. We stop.
"And why is that the only time that we stop? Why does it have to be in the bad times only? We as a society are trained to go without stopping every day. But what is so bad about this practice that we don't do it? I would love to have questions about myself answered, even during my best days."
Langsdale told his classmates to slow down and give themselves attention.
"We have this power to correct ourselves, make sense of the bad days, listen to yourself, look at your surroundings, think about what you're doing," he said. "Stop. Stop right where you are and recognize that you are here, part of a beautiful world and your beautiful self right where you stand, and a lotus flower grows out of the mud."
Thankfully, it was not too muddy at Windsor Lake, where BArT held the first outdoor graduation exercises in its 17-year history. But there was some rain and plenty of wind — not that anyone was complaining.
The class of 2021 was just thankful to be gathered in one place after watching the class of 2020 make the most of the virtual graduation it celebrated last spring at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gathering together and supporting one another in person was a theme throughout the 90-minute ceremony.
Senior Marko Iwasiwka talked about the bonds his classmates built "in hundreds of classes and hundreds of class trips."
"We are a school of dreamers, activists, jokesters, creatives and, most importantly, good and fruitful human beings," Iwasiwka said.
History teacher Alla Chelukhova, who was selected by the seniors to deliver the keynote address, shared her own personal history and journey with the class, which she taught as eighth-graders in her first job as a middle school teacher and again in junior year as in-person learning came to a half in mid-March.
"It's been so hard, but you show up and do the work," Chelukhova said, reading her thoughts from late April 2020. "You are fierce, fearless, brilliant. I can't wait to hug you on the other side."
Principal Sean Keogh told the graduates that he recently took time at the end of his day to watch the senior reflections that each member of the class created this spring.
"I heard how hard it was to be away from each other and how hard you worked to stay connected," Keogh said.
"If students could walk out of BArT with one skill, it would be to make connections and talk about those connections honestly in their lives."
Society needs those connections more than ever coming out of the global pandemic, Keogh said.
"Listening to you made me feel connected, even though I was very much alone in that office — something I've been a lot the last couple of years," he said.
He encouraged the 2021 graduates to take interpersonal skills they developed at BArT and build 30 new communities out in the world as they move forward.
"What you did here was magical," Keogh said. "But that doesn't mean it's not repeatable. You can make connections out there."
The Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School Class of 2021: Brandon Bamba, Isaac Bamba, Aiyanna Bellefeuille, Owen Brady, Michael Brassard, Alexis Choquette, Emma Danylin, Micaiah Franklin, Maya Gayle, Miranda-Ann Grant, Kyle Gwilt, Lindsey Gwilt, Marko Iwasiwka, Olivia Jayko, Jaiden Jimenez, Cameron Langsdale, Hannah Levardi-Earle, Kimberly Miller, Diego Mongue, Kai-Erik Nielsen, Eugene Osei-Kuffour, Sydneigh Patterson, Amira-Celeste Reed, Kayla Saunders, Nayeli Sequiera Sunguroff, Max Stanley, Kassondra Stockmal, Charles Waltermire, Molly Weeks and Tatumn Winston.