Easthampton High grads bound for the real world

By Mercy Lingle

For the Gazette

Published: 06-05-2023 5:56 PM

EASTHAMPTON — As she built up to the chorus of the song she wrote for Easthampton High School’s commencement, Emmalyse Wozniak sang the lyrics, “We’re graduating high school now, real-world bound,” alongside English teacher Michael Demento, who played the guitar during their performance.

In the lyrics of her song, Emmalyse reflected on feeling like she wouldn’t make it to this point, but now that she and her classmates were here, they had to embrace the “real,” adult world which faced them.

The performance represents the sentiments of many of the speakers at Saturday’s graduation ceremony, held indoors a day after an outdoor graduation was postponed due to weather.

Valedictorian Kathryn Geertsma provided another look into the future, telling parents and staff that the 92 graduates would “strive to make you proud of us every step of the way.”

Other student speakers chose a different direction, as they focused on the past, and how their experiences have gotten them to this point. Class of 2023 Salutatorian Jessica Cloutier reflected on how her 12-year-old self might see her now, stating that despite all the struggles that it took for her to achieve academic success, her younger self would say, “Yeah, that’s going to be me one day.”

In providing another reference to the past, senior class president Michael Jaramillo Massa spoke about a popular children’s book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” which he humorously called “intense” and “sensational.” The book details the events which follow when a child offers his mouse a cookie, and the mouse cannot help but ask for much more. In a crafty metaphor, he compared himself and his fellow peers to the insatiable mouse in the story, and their parents, teachers, and community to the child. He claimed he “wanted more,” knowledge and experiences and “was never satisfied.”

While delivering her commencement address, Spanish teacher Toni Mango gave advice to her students concerning their futures, to “work hard, be kind,” and “be passionate about what you do.” Overall, she said that the most important thing to do was be able to laugh at oneself.

Yet, whether they were thinking of days spent in elementary school or future university experiences, the speakers emphasized the fact that they could not be where they are today without the support of their community.

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This community strength was put on display when the ceremony was stalled in order for senior Berthanson Jean Jacques Tauscher to return from running the 400-meter dash for the MIAA “Meet of Champions” at Fitchburg State University. From the start of the ceremony, Principal William Evans stated that the students would not complete the ceremony or turn their tassels until Tauscher returned. For this reason, when he walked in after every other student had walked across the stage to receive their diploma, the families, students, and staff roared.

Finally, Evans thanked the community for their support of the graduating students; “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a small city to get them to graduate.”