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Pioneer Valley Performing Arts graduates 60 in upbeat ceremony

  • Maeve O'Sullivan, center, of Haydenville, and Lydia Pepi, of Northampton, blow soap bubbles beside Darren Macpherson, of South Deerfield, before they graduated Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School Thursday at Calvin Theater.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Maeve O'Sullivan, center, of Haydenville, and Lydia Pepi, of Northampton, blow soap bubbles beside Darren Macpherson, of South Deerfield, before they graduated Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School Thursday at Calvin Theater.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frani Hamkins-Indik, right, leads a row of graduates to their seats as other graduates applaud them during the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School commencement Thursday at Calvin Theater.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Frani Hamkins-Indik, right, leads a row of graduates to their seats as other graduates applaud them during the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School commencement Thursday at Calvin Theater.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School  graduate Faith Geanacopoulos' graduation cap includes a two-headed dragon Thursday at Calvin Theater. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School graduate Faith Geanacopoulos' graduation cap includes a two-headed dragon Thursday at Calvin Theater.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School students Ari Michaels, left, Taylor Fournier and Jack DeMeo perform as photos of the class of 2013 are projected at the beginning of commencement Thursday at Calvin Theater.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School students Ari Michaels, left, Taylor Fournier and Jack DeMeo perform as photos of the class of 2013 are projected at the beginning of commencement Thursday at Calvin Theater.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rose Kendrick, of Northampton, waits for the start of commencement with other graduates from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School Thursday at Calvin Theater.JERREY ROBERTS

    Rose Kendrick, of Northampton, waits for the start of commencement with other graduates from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School Thursday at Calvin Theater.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Maeve O'Sullivan, center, of Haydenville, and Lydia Pepi, of Northampton, blow soap bubbles beside Darren Macpherson, of South Deerfield, before they graduated Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School Thursday at Calvin Theater.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Frani Hamkins-Indik, right, leads a row of graduates to their seats as other graduates applaud them during the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School commencement Thursday at Calvin Theater.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School  graduate Faith Geanacopoulos' graduation cap includes a two-headed dragon Thursday at Calvin Theater. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School students Ari Michaels, left, Taylor Fournier and Jack DeMeo perform as photos of the class of 2013 are projected at the beginning of commencement Thursday at Calvin Theater.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Rose Kendrick, of Northampton, waits for the start of commencement with other graduates from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School Thursday at Calvin Theater.JERREY ROBERTS

The graduation at the Calvin Theatre began with the performance of “Landslide” by seniors Jack DeMeo, Taylor Fournier, and Ari Michaels.

As Fournier and Michaels sang lyrics such as “But time makes you bolder. Children get older. I’m getting older too,” and DeMeo strummed softly on the guitar, the mood remained upbeat as baby pictures paired with current pictures of the graduates were projected on a screen behind them. The audience laughed at many of the baby pictures, and screamed in excitement when the recent photos revealed the babies’ identities.

The lights faded and stagehands hurriedly carried out the podium and microphone before student affairs director Chris Fournier took the stage to introduce the 60-member class of 2013. Suddenly, the packed theater took on the tone of a dance floor. As the 60 graduates filed in, the pit band played a repertoire unconventional for a graduation, consisting of the “Superman Fanfare,” the theme from “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” the “Ghostbusters Theme” and “Let Me Clear My Throat.”

Fournier, the audience and the graduates all moved to the beat of the music as the class entered in caps and gowns, many adorned to fit their individual styles. Some caps had ribbons and flowers, and one cap had paper flowers. One graduate had fuzzy sleeves on her gown.

In the opening remarks by head of school Scott Goldman, he likened the graduation of the class of 2013 to a story about a man holding onto a vine while a tiger waited below and mice nibbled at the top of the vine. The man suddenly saw a strawberry, which he successfully obtained by holding onto the vine with only one hand while he reached for the strawberry with the other.

“You too have had to face your own tigers,” Goldman said to the class, noting that among the challenges and obstacles they faced were their “own fears,” but that it was their “effort, determination and passion,” along with the support of teachers and peers, that brought the graduates success.

“If you’re unable to see the strawberry, we at PVPA will always be there to share the strawberry — probably dipped in dark chocolate,” Goldman added.

The strong relationship between students and teachers at PVPA was evident in several speeches. Makeda Diggs, one of the senior class speakers, recounted some of her favorite memories about teachers, including one who dressed in “time-appropriate garb” to teach a Renaissance class.

When environmental science teacher Timothy Brown took the stage, he noted that the “hierarchical boundaries” between students and faculty at PVPA is often blurred.

“I never thought of myself as solely your teacher,” Brown said. “I considered myself lucky to be a learner alongside you.”

Brown also credited the class for its optimism while faced with having to grow up in a time of war, climate crisis and gun violence, but also recognized the positive changes that have come with recent times, including the election of a black man as president and the nationwide movement for same-sex marriages. The audience cheered heartily.

Senior speaker Tessa Roy said the class members should be “extremely proud” of their journey as they look back on their time at PVPA.

“However bumpy and unpredictable it has been, it would not have been the same if we had not chosen it,” Roy said.

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