Class speaker Makailey Cookis tells her classmates to remember who they are right now and use that as an anchor as they go forth into the world. See more photos here.
LENOX, Mass. — Superintendent Jason McCandless doesn't think the Pittsfield High School Class of 2018 is very bashful.
"You are not a shy group, Class of 2018. You've never held back your thoughts on your teachers, administrators, or me. The class of 2018 was not shy about emailing the superintendent," McCandless said.
He recalled receiving this email from Jonathan Zunitch, "Dear Dr. McCandless, lots of snow, lots of students going to bed late tonight, roads are looking pretty rough out there, 🤔." And jokingly said he'd be calling Zunitch next year at 4 in the morning asking for advice on whether or not to call a snow day.
The graduates are both bold and courageous and McCandless said that is what Pittsfield schools have given them after 2,340 days and 15,000 hours in the classroom.
On Saturday, they walked across The Shed's stage at Tanglewood to receive their diplomas and transition into the next stage of their lives. McCandless told the students just because they are prepared, doesn't necessarily mean they will always succeed.
"What's next for you won't happen under the gold dome on East Street. What's next for you will happen on a job site or might be on a military base or college campus. You may not be surrounded by people that will love you. The people who enter your lives next will not know your story the way your friends at PHS do. Some of you may experience actual failure when it comes to what's next," McCandless said.
"You are ready and you are bold. But you still may stumble."
It is the courage, McCandless said, to keep going that makes the difference, citing that J.K. Rowling saw Harry Potter be rejected because publishers didn't think it would sell, Oprah was fired from her first television job, Abraham Lincoln lost more elections than he won, the Beatles and Supremes were denied record contracts, Hank Aaron struck out more than 1,400 times, and Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots.
He wants the students to persevere. And as life changes, class orator Makailey Cookis wants her classmates to reflect on who they were on this Sunday after every success and every failure. She told them to use the person they are today as an anchoring point as they determine where their lives will ultimately go.
"Remember the person you are today. When times get difficult, remember the person you are today. When you've achieved your greatest accomplishment, remember the person you are today. Why do I say that? Because the person you are today is the person you will always reflect back on. Who you are today is who you decide to be," she said.
As the students move on to work, college, or the military, many of them can feel uncertain. Mayor Linda Tyer gave encouraging works to turn that into an adventure.
"You can turn that uncertainty into one of two things and this is most definitely your choice. You can either allow fear to creep into your heart and paralyze your potential. Or you can embrace uncertainty, look it right in the eyes and turn it into your very own adventure-filled life with challenges to overcome and triumphs to celebrate," Tyer said.
She reminded them of the beginning of "The Hobbit" when Bilbo Baggins is asked to go on an adventure by Gandalf the Wizard. At first, he rejects the idea and shuts the door in Gandalf's face. But, he thinks again. He re-opens the door and that leads him down a path that he'd never have imagined if he hadn't left his hobbit hole.
"There are Gandalfs everywhere and you will be invited to embark on 101 adventures. Be brave. Accept the invitation. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is being afraid and going for it anyway," Tyer said.
She added that curiosity will inform instincts and will help recognize the next opportunities. And she told the students to be "hyperfocused" on the moment.
Principal Matthew Bishop hopes that moving into the future, the students keep the same enthusiasm they had when both first entered PHS. The students started a new chapter then and "set the bar high." He hoped that some of the important lessons were learned outside of the tests.
"It is important to be active participants in life. From here on out, being absent or tardy, not handing something in, won't show up in your grades but it is lost opportunities for you," Bishop said.
As the speeches wrapped up, the students' energy rose. And one by one, the Generals crossed the stage to become graduates.
"Go out and reach for the stars, dream big, but be kind," School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon told the graduates. "You can be that hero and change the world and make this a more compassionate, caring place, where everyone feels safe and empowered to be their true selves."
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