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McCann Class of 2020 Urged to Highlight the Positive
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
10:45PM / Thursday, August 06, 2020
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McCann Technical School held its graduation on Thursday at the football field.

Valedictorian Vanessa Harrington urges her classmates not to define their high school experience by the pandemic. See more photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — McCann Technical School's class of 2020 did not want to make its graduation about COVID-19.
Valedictorian Vanessa Harrington told the 117 members of the class that she scratched her original speech that had been about the effects of COVID-19 and switched to talk about the some of the more positive things in the world 
"It has taken over our lives and has become the topic of every conversation," she told the hundred or so attendees gathered on the football field on Thursday night. "So rather than dwelling over events that unfortunately will not change I figured I would take this time to highlight the good and remind us of everything positive that is happening."
Instead of talking about the challenges the global pandemic has created for the class, the country, and the world, Harrington talked about some of the class's successes and thanked all those who helped along the way. 
She also asked her classmates to look toward the future and a new slate of experiences. 
"We need to walk away from the familiar as we did four years ago to discover bigger and better things," she said. "It may sound scary that our paths are about to split in 117 different ways as we each walk away and start over. But the best part about starting the next chapter ... is that we get to write how this one goes."
Salutatorian Emma Carpenter said high school went by quicker than she expected and she urged her fellow graduates to live in the moment so life after high school doesn't move by so quickly and is taken for granted.
"Everything in our lives that feels so far away will come and go before we know it so I believe that it is in our best interest to take advantage of the time we are given," she said. "Do everything you want to do, see everything that you want to see because before you know it it will be over." 
She thanked her family, friends, teachers, and faculty and said she was excited to see what her classmates would accomplish.
"I am also filled with a sense of anticipation knowing that after today we are all going to venture out into the real world and make significant changes," Carpenter said. "I have no doubt that we will leave a lasting impact on this world with all that we have to offer." 
School Committee Chairman Gary Rivers said the class of 2020 was truly special and have had so many high school experiences taken away because of the pandemic.
He thanked them for adapting and said it would make them even stronger as they enter the next phase of their lives.
"There is a silver lining in there for all you graduates and this COVID episode has prepared you for the many challenges coming in the new normal," he said. "In life, at work, or in school it has helped you become more flexible as people and as a learner."
Superintendent James Brosnan also congratulated the class and said they will always be remembered at McCann as one of the most resilient.
"We will always remember their resilience, their perseverance, and their calmness in terms of reacting," he said. "We are happy to be able to offer this celebration to the students that have worked so hard to be here this evening." 
The graduation had been postponed from June rather than doing a virtual or drive-by ceremony as other high schools had done. Once the state had moved into Phase 3 of its reopening plan, the conditions had improved enough for an outside gathering, although accompanied by masks and social distancing. There was still a second delay as the graduation was supposed to happen Wednesday but put off because of a tropical storm. 
The school not only said goodbye to the class of 2020 but also to Advanced Manufacturing teacher of 31 years Gary Wood.
"He spent the last 30-plus years training our students in the machining world, including my son," Principal Justin Kratz said. "The number of lives that he as impacted and touched over the years and the number of people out there gainfully employed and very successful is uncountable."
Wood, who is also a McCann alumnus from the 1970s, is retiring.
Brosnan also thanked staff for making the day possible and noted it was not easy moving graduation from its traditional occurrence at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to the football field, especially having to adhere to all of the social distancing standards.
Kratz pointed out the uniqueness of the setting between Mount Greylock and the motocross course.
"You sit here and you have dirt bikes going on in the background and Mount Greylock up there," he said. "I don't think there are many high school graduates that can say they graduated listening to dirt bike races underneath the state's tallest peak. so this is just awesome." 
Kratz was the last to speak and told the class about a former colleague who always told him to be aware of other people's perspectives. He said this especially important for the class of 2020 who are entering a divisive world where people are less concerned with listening and finding the middle ground 
"Over the last couple of months, I found myself thinking about him and repeating that phrase in my head as we all certainly have gone through some challenging difficulties," he said. "But one thing that I have noticed over the years is that when difficult situations do come up for some reason they are more successfully navigated when you do look at other people's perspectives." 
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