Principal Aaron Robb dedicated Sunday's graduation exercises to Wahconah's first principal, Jack Franklin, who died a week ago at 98. See more photos here.
DALTON, Mass. — Wahconah Regional High School graduated 134 seniors during exercises dedicated to the school's first principal: Jacob "Jack" Franklin.
Principal Aaron Robb asked the packed gymnasium on Sunday afternoon to take a moment to think of Franklin, who passed away May 28 at the age of 98.
"He was revered and, by all accounts, had lived a long and happy life. It just so happened that he left us as we were preparing to say goodbye to our own graduates, something that he did for so long," Robb said. "Therefore, we found it fitting to honor this Wahconah pioneer by dedicating this graduation ceremony in the loving memory of Jacob Franklin."
Franklin had been principal of Dalton High School and was instrumental in the creation of the regional school district. He became principal of Wahconah in 1955 and lead the school for 12 years.
Franklin's son Mark Franklin, a former Wahconah English teacher, stood in recognition on behalf of his father.
Salutatorian Emmaline Cote compared the class's four years in high school to seasons.
She said freshman year was like summer, when the class had time to experiment and find its place in the school. Sophomore year was like fall and much like how people go back to work during this season, the class of 2017 buckled down and found and began to make an impact on the school.
Junior year with the endless workload was like winter, she said, however, spring was in sight.
"Everyone loves spring and it is when the flowers bloom and leaves reappear on trees it's all about new beginnings and new birth," she said. "This is what senior year was full of. Everything has become new and different for us. While this means we will go our separate ways, it also means we get to start fresh somewhere new."
Cote concluded by saying the seasons are about to cycle through again.
"The fact of the matter is that the seasons are yet again changing and this time it is a big change but something that I know everyone behind me can handle," she said.
As she had looked back on her four years, class President Jessica Houle said, she remembered the cryptic words of her Latin teacher Charles Bradshaw who said, "you are only in high school to get out of high school."
"All of this time I had interpreted his saying to be negative, to mean that high school was just something to get over as quick as possible," she said. "I then understood that being out of high school is not just a physical thing, it is a mindset. One that must be reached by any graduate that will afford you a successful life after high school."
She said her teachers and fellow classmates helped nurture this mindset in her by providing her with new perspective. She recalled not scoring too well on a math test and walking through the halls in tears.
"In the span of two hallways, I was cared for six times and all the while I was thinking about how fortunate I was to go to a school with people so genuine and so nice," Houle said. "It's these things that put it in perspective. The values we need to carry with us outside of high school. The test score had no effect on my final grade but the effect of all of those people that cared for me mattered much more than any score."
Valedictorian Collette Basiliere quoted "Winnie The Pooh" and told her fellow students to always remember "you're braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
She urged her classmates to be brave in any way that works for them.
"We need to try to make the world a better place but that doesn't mean you have to choose to fight world hunger you can offer a compliment to a stranger or lend a helping hand to someone in need," Basiliere said. "Both require bravery and truly have an impact on the world. You all have enough courage inside of you and you can be brave in your own way."
Superintendent Laurie Casna also addressed the class and told them to continue to be kind.
"When I thought about this class what stood out were two words. They are kind and they care," she said. "They are simple words but they are powerful. The class of 2017 have been kind to each other, kind to our schools and they have been kind to the community. The only advice I would give them is to continue to be kind and continue to care. Those two actions will take you further than any salary."
Before handing out diplomas, Robb told the class that everything in life is cyclical and that its members will always be welcomed back into the Wahconah community.
"As cliché as it may sound, you are about to find out that life is full of circles. What goes around really does come around, what was once old will become new again and what you give is what you get," Robb said. "At some point in your life, if you have the need to circle back, always know we will be waiting for you and in the meantime, we will be rooting for you every step of the way as you go out and change the world."
pittsfield.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.