South Hadley Graduation: 'Hovering Between Past and Future'

This article originally appeared in the June 6, 2011 edition of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

By Etta Walsh

SOUTH HADLEY - Leaden skies turned sunny in time for Sunday's commencement ceremonies for South Hadley High School graduates.

The event kicked off precisely at 4 pm at the Richard Glen Gettell Amphitheater on the grounds of Mount Holyoke College, where 152 seniors descended from the top of the facility to the bottom, to receive their diplomas as friends and relatives looked on.

Graduates, with males wearing black gowns and females in white, were in high spirits, batting around beach balls while seated at the front of the outdoor theater.

Commencement speaker Lynn Pasquerella, president of the college, told the graduates, "You are literally hovering between your past and your future."

Pasquerella, born in northeastern Connecticut as the only child of factory workers who didn't graduate from high school, said students should honor the past, but not be bound by it.

"If I had let my past dictate my future, I would not be standing here today," she said. "The mid-life crisis happens when you allow the past that you didn't choose for yourself to rule your future, like a tyrant."

School Superintendent Gus Sayer honored retiring high school Principal Daniel Smith, saying, "He helped many students find success where they had not found it before."

Sayer noted that the class of 2011 was the first to have benefitted from advanced placement classes at the high school. Last year, 160 students enrolled in the courses, and this year, there were 260 students, Sayer said.

"This is a great class. You've achieved much already and will achieve more in the future," he said.

'How we have lived'

Student Council President Katherine Paleologopoulos said the true definition of success "is not wealth, power, status or fame, but how we have lived."

Four female students shared salutatorian-valedictorian honors.

Salutatorians Melanie Demakis and Julia Lamontagne, along with co-valedictorians Morgan Provost and Chloe Sabbs spoke of the many memories that classmates share, the lessons learned in the classroom and from life, and the road ahead where graduates will take divergent paths.

Senior Class President Martha Hamlin offered classmates five rules for successful living, in descending order: "Remember the past is only a chapter; do one thing every day that scares you; remember there is no one alive that is ‘you-er' than you; recognize that every day won't be sunny; and welcome change."

The school chorus, under direction of Beth Ayn Curtis, sang "My Wish," which included the lyric, "May all your dreams stay big."

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