Valedictorian Cady Denning tells the class that Drury has taught them the ingredients they need to make lemonade out of what life throws them. See more photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The class of 2018 first entered Drury High School unsure of what to expect, and perhaps a little disappointed at first.
It wasn't anything like "High School Musical," complained class valedictorian Cady Denning. No one was breaking out in a musical numbers in the hallways, no one was dancing on the tables.
But what the class did get was preparation for the "so-called real world" among the science experiments, math lessons, music and sports.
"As cliche as it may sound, high school has prepared us for a lifetime of lemons," Denning told the crowded Drury gymnasium on Thursday night. "We've learned that sometimes when life throws you lemons, you can't just make lemonade. You have to bring your own sugar and water to the table first or else it just wouldn't taste right."
Sugar and water in terms of learning how to manage time, how to solve problems, how to seek help, how to face challenges. Denning said she found inspiration in her 72 classmates as the group persevered through troubled times and cheered each other in the good times.
"Each of these students sitting up here tonight has faced many personal obstacles and challenges," Denning said. "They've dealt with every lemon life has thrown their way and now they're here ready to receive their diploma. So I raise my glass of lemonade, which is bittersweet just like this moment, to everybody in the room."
Bittersweet perhaps, but it was a most definitely joyous night at Drury as the graduates broke out into song and dance and grinned with happiness as they received their diplomas and congratulations from Mayor Thomas Bernard and Superintendent Barbara Malkas.
It was Bernard's first time handing out diplomas as the city's new mayor and chairman of the School Committee. Just one year ago, he reminded the gathering, he'd sat on the other side watching his daughter, the class of 2017's valedictorian Alexandra Bernard, graduate. And it was almost to the moment when he'd been on stage himself 30 years ago to receive his diploma, he said. Now he had the honor of pronouncing this latest crop of graduates from Drury.
The evening began with the processional into the gym and the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Class President Cassandra Crosier lead the Pledge of Allegiance, the band played "Fort Massachusetts" and the chorus sang "I Hope You Dance." Class Vice Presidents Emily Stewart and Anthony Neff led the processional and took turns reading the names of graduates as they stepped on stage for their diplomas.
Salutatorian Allison Zoito, a member of the band, couched some of her advice in musical references. They came down to certain attributes she'd learned while at Drury: don't rush; use indoor and outdoor voices appropriately; life is short; life changes pitch so go with the flow; and attend to personal problems.
The gist was to take time to enjoy life and not be afraid to take chances.
"If I were to share a piece of advice, I'd say make decisions based on what you want for yourself and what you know will make you happy and fulfill your goals based on what you want for yourself and not what you think others want of you," she said. "There are enough followers in the world, be the person to stand up for what you believe in even if others don't agree with you."
Life has its ups and downs, failures are a chance to learn, she said.
"We each have written our composition, which we customized with both successes and shortfalls. And it's our failures that define the parameters in which we live ... branch out and don't be afraid," Zoito said, leaving the class with the words spelled out on her mortarboard: "Where words fail, music speaks."
Principal Timothy Callahan said he'd tried to get a handle on the class, first thinking he could compare them to kids' cereal Count Chocula but then realizing they could be portrayed in numbers: 27, 35, 78 and 100.
Twenty-seven percent of the class was nontraditional in that the students had were pursued different paths to graduation, such as college courses or the E3 Academy. And 35 percent of the seniors ahd actually transferred in from other schools, although some had started at Drury, left and come back.
"They have this cosmopolitan air, they're world travelers, they've been to strange lands like McCann Tech, Hoosac Valley and BArT," he said to laughter. "Maybe that's what defines this class."
Or maybe it's the fact that 78 percent of the graduating class had taken one or more Advanced Placement classes, the highest number of AP participants the school's seen. Even the non-AP students had taken higher level classes that challenged them.
But Callahan thought the real number was 100 percent: every single student on the stage was graduating that night. A few had to finish up some online courses, but not one student was being required to attend summer school, he said.
"Even though we can't predict the future, we are — I am — 100 percent confident that they will surprise and make their mark on the world," he said.
Before the class broke out into singing Springsteen's "Glory Days" and the alma mater, before the confetti fell from the ceiling and the caps were tossed the air, Malkas sent them off with a last bit of advice.
"No matter where life takes you — college, military or directly to employment — please remember the lessons you've learned here at Drury High School, your Mother on the Hill, to participate, to be authentic and fair, and to provide support for each other," she said. "By doing this your future and our collective future is certainly bright."
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