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Smith Academy: ‘Find your passion and follow it’

  • Graduates Annette Neves, third honors and class secretary, from left, valedictorian and class vice president Hannah Rickert and class president Shannen Hogan share a laugh Friday during Smith Academy’s graduation in Hatfield. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The Smith Academy chorus, including graduate Xander Macaulay Finch, center, sings Friday during the graduation ceremony in Hatfield. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Valedictorian and class vice president Hannah Rickert speaks Friday during Smith Academy’s graduation ceremony in Hatfield. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Graduates are called forward to accept awards and scholarships June 1, 2018 during Smith Academy's graduation ceremony in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Retiring teacher and athletic director David Keir speaks June 1, 2018 during Smith Academy's graduation ceremony in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Graduate Annette Neves, third honors and class secretary, speaks June 1, 2018 during Smith Academy's graduation ceremony in Hatfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



Staff Writer
Saturday, June 02, 2018

HATFIELD — In the evening before their final year at Smith Academy began, seniors took two cars to an undisclosed location in Hatfield, passed out cans of spray paint and began placing their initials on the side of a barn.

As Hannah Rickert, the class of 2018 valedictorian, explained during Friday’s commencement, their actions not only signified the end of an era, but they were a way to show how all 29 seniors would not live in fear, would go outside their comfort zone and would live in the present.

“I would like you to all seize the moment and appreciate the little things,” Rickert said.

Speaking before relatives, students and members of community in the gymnasium decorated with numerous white and purple balloons, Rickert offered thanks to the school’s teachers and coaches, as well as her classmates and all families and observed that “we are stepping toward the future that lies ahead.”

“Class of 2018, I want to leave you with this: find your passion and follow it,” Rickert said.

Annette Neves, who received third honors, said their high school years went by in the blink of an eye.

“It feels like it was just yesterday that we were just walking through the doors of Smith Academy as awkward little middle schoolers terrified of the upperclassmen,” Neves said.

She recalled the time she and her friends got lost while exploring the woods of Hatfield, comparing this to life as a high school student.

“High school has been about finding ourselves and where we belonged,” Neves said. “When one of us got lost, we had such a great community of people that has helped to get us back on track.”

Miya Walto, the class salutatorian, said “My advice for my fellow classmates is to enjoy the little things from here on out.

“The memories of the past four years of high school are ones I will look back on and smile for years,” Walto added.

The class chose David Keir, athletic director since 2011, to give the commencement address in advance of his retirement after 35 years as a faculty member.

He asked the seniors to give applause to their parents. “They are responsible for your being as successful as you are,” Keir said.

He added that the graduates should try to have fun no matter what path they choose. “Find things that make you happy and keep them in your lives,” Keir said. “It is important that we go into this chapter with a mind-set to enjoy the ride.”

As they gathered in classrooms prior to commencement, several seniors reflected on their time at Smith Academy.

“This class is going to be a good memory,” said Matt Bouley, who will pursue a degree in criminal justice at Worcester State University.

Bouley observed how welcome he felt after moving from Northampton to Hatfield for eighth grade. “It’s been nice to be in a school with such a great atmosphere,” Bouley said.

Izzy Duseau, who heads to Merrimack College to play field hockey, said Smith Academy felt like a family.

“I will miss coming in and knowing everyone and being so close to teachers and kids,” Duseau said. “It’s a special bond.”

The tight-knit school was also appreciated by Drew Lambert, who will attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst to study biochemistry. His aspiration is to work for the World Health Organization and find a cure for cystic fibrosis, observing that he lost his sister to the genetic disorder.

“It’s really, really unique because most of us have been together for so long,” Lambert said. “I’ve loved building these really close relationships.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.