Amherst-Pelham graduates commit to meeting challenges, reflect on accomplishments

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 06-11-2023 9:20 AM

AMHERST — Krish Poudel speaks proudly about the Amherst-Pelham Regional High School Class of 2023, both for the many accomplishments its members faced and for how they dealt with the numerous challenges thrown in their way over the last four years.

“Despite facing a global pandemic, suffering repeated losses of loved ones throughout our community and grappling with challenging societal issues in our school system, our class managed to achieve amazing things,” the senior class president said before a packed arena of parents, family and friends at the school’s commencement ceremonies at the Mullins Center on the UMass campus Friday night. “Our class members have piloted planes, launched anti-racism campaigns, tackled massive local journalism stories gaining statewide attention ...”

Poudel was momentarily cut off by a vigorous applause from both the graduating students and the audience at the naming of the last item, referring to a story that ran this spring in the high school’s newspaper about alleged transphobic actions by middle school counselors. The story led to statewide coverage and school staff members as well as an assistant superintendent being placed on leave pending the outcome of an ongoing Title IX investigation.

“Such unwavering commitment to surpass limitations and rising up to challenges set us apart,” Poudel continued on. “We have proven time and time again that we possess the indomitable spirit necessary to overcome any hurdle that comes our way.”

Poudel’s speech was one part of the ceremony to honor the more than 200 graduates of Class of 2023. The ceremony also included live music performances by the Amherst Regional High School Chorale and the school’s all-female Hurricane Singers group, as well as a student-led bomba, a traditional Puerto Rican dance, and a performance by the school’s wind ensemble.

The school also honored its eight valedictorians, which at Amherst-Pelham is defined as any student who has maintained a 4.0 GPA through the entirety of their time at the school. In addition to Poudel, other valedictorians included Ezekiel Douglas-Rosenthal, Cian Gahan, Cameron Gray-Lee, Madeline Jayne, Samuel Kennedy, Diego Lopez and Deborah Wells. In addition, the school had two salutatorians, Sam Watson-Stevens and Andrew Woojin Kwon.

Kate Kuhn, an English teacher at the school who gave the ceremony’s commencement address, encouraged the students to embrace the new beginnings for the next phase of their lives.

“In the months ahead, you may have moments when your first impulse is to resist that change,” she said. “But then that’s when I hope you remember your successes and your bravery.”

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The ceremony also featured remarks from acting superintendent Douglas Slaughter.

“This is a big accomplishment. You will undoubtedly have many more, but make a moment to cherish what you’ve done,” he said. “I said ‘make a moment’ and not ‘take a moment’ on purpose. Be intentional to make the time to carve out the moment for true reflection about both the good and the bad. Take pride in what you have done well, and review how to be a better version of yourself.”

Ben Herrington, of the district’s Regional School Committee, offered some parting advice to the graduating class as they explore possible career choices.

“You can be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an electrician, a YouTuber or a crooked politician,” he said. “No matter what occupation you choose, I offer you this piece of advice — just be a good person.”

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.

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