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HRHS grads take ‘A giant leap into the real world’

  • Hampshire Regional High School graduates pass by a traffic cone on their way to the stage to receive their diplomas at Smith College's John M. Greene Hall on Friday, June 2, 2017. The cone was placed there by Scott Bisbee, the father of HRHS classmate Thomas Bisbee who passed away last September and was known to prank his friends with the cone. The Bisbee family was presented with an honorary diploma for Thomas. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Alexandra Bartolucci and Noah Batchelder applaud principal Kristen Smidy during her remarks at the Hampshire Regional High School graduation held at Smith College's John M. Greene Hall on Friday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire Regional High School valedictorian Ida Weiss, left, salutatorian Brody Dean, class president Peyton Binnenkade, vice president Lauren Braastad and secretary Matthew Babyak listen as Emily Reardon and Julie Lussier sing “H.O.L.Y.”, by Florida Georgia Line, in memory of classmate Thomas Bisbee who died last September. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Members of the Hampshire Regional High School chamber singers make their way to the stage past a cone placed by Scott Bisbee in memory of his son, Thomas Bisbee, a classmate who died in September. An honorary diploma was presented to the family of the HRHS senior who was known to “cone” his friends’ cars as a prank. The graduation took place at Smith College’s John M. Greene Hall on Friday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Julie Lussier, center, joins her fellow Hampshire Regional High School Chamber Singers for the last time to sing "Con Te Partiro" for the school's graduation held at Smith College's John M. Greene Hall on Friday, June 2, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Julie Lussier flashes a bittersweet smile after finishing a song with her fellow Hampshire Regional High School chamber singers for the last time at the school's graduation held at Smith College's John M. Greene Hall on Friday, June 2, 2017. The group sang "Con Te Partiro", by Andrea Bocelli. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Justine Legowski, right, gets a hug from Hampshire Regional High School senior class vice president Lauren Braastad after receiving her diploma at the school's graduation exercises held at Smith College's John M. Greene Hall on Friday, June 2, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Samuel Shelkey, right, gets a hug from Hampshire Regional High School senior class president Peyton Binnenkade after receiving his diploma during the school's graduation exercises held at Smith College's John M. Greene Hall on Friday, June 2, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire Regional High School valedictorian Ida Weiss speaks during graduation exercises held at Smith College's John M. Greene Hall on Friday, June 2, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@kate_ashworth
Saturday, June 03, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — One orange traffic cone sat in the front aisle of John M. Greene Hall at Smith College. The reflective strips beamed in the spotlight, accentuating the dirt marks.

It was a seemingly out-of-place presence at Hampshire Regional High School commencement. But for the 114 graduates receiving their diploma Friday evening, orange cones were a familiar — and bittersweet — sight.

“Coning” was a prank senior Thomas Bisbee and his friends made up. They would place orange cones in people’s driveways — sometimes just one or two, other times up to 15.

The joke carried on at the high school commencement. But this time, the cone had a different meaning.

Bisbee died last fall from an undetected heart condition, and on Friday, his father Scott placed a cone in his son’s memory.

Friday’s commencement started with a moment of silence for Bisbee and Principal Kristen Smidy presented his family with an honorary diploma.

“Thomas may not be with us physically, but he is certainly with us in all of our hearts and minds,” Smidy said.

Graduates Julie Lussier and Emily Reardon remembered Bisbee with Florida Georgia Line’s song “H.O.L.Y.”

“You’re an angel, tell me you’re never leaving,” they sang. “You’re holy, holy, holy, holy.”

Six years ago, Friday’s graduates started HRHS as seventh-graders, and for Smidy, it was her first day as an administrator.

“I remember many of you as nervous seventh-graders,” she said. “I was probably just as scared, if not even more terrified of what Hampshire would be like and where our journey would lead.”

Valedictorian Ida Weiss spoke of Neil Armstrong’s “one step for mankind” on the moon, but said people rarely get to experience a related sensation — “the thrill of standing at an immense turning point and striving forward into the unknown.”

While graduates may not be stepping out onto the moon, Weiss said “we’re taking a giant leap into the real world.”

Some graduates say the their next step is finding a job and then furthering their education.

Jacob Bihler, 18, said he plans to go to Springfield Technical Community College to become a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technician.

Sarah Falcetti, 18, said she’s going to Curry College in Milton to study communications and video editing. Her interest was sparked after classes in video production at HRHS and she now wants to work on documentary films.

Hallie Cooney said she’s set to attend the State University of New York to study animal science. Cooney said she has always loved animals. At home she has two dogs, a cat, snake and lizard.

Smidy compared their knowledge gained from school to monetary value and said “you are rich.”

“You soaked in lessons, from eating mealworms in science class, writing and revising and rewriting your work and solving algebraic equations,” Smidy said. “You put all that wealth into your piggy bank.”

The graduates reached under their seats and found a small envelope. Inside was a penny imprinted with “class of” with a heart around the coin’s year — 2017.

“Your next stage in life may be varied, but I hope that you will all continue to grow your wealth of knowledge, kindness and curiosity,” Smidy said. “I speak on behalf of the entire Hampshire Regional faculty and staff when I say that we are proud of you.”

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.