Belchertown High School grads ‘continue to soar’

  • Julia Morgado, standing center, adjusts her cap, and classmates, seated from left, David Fredenburgh, Mitchell Medina and Jonathan Beauder chat as the graduates gather in the auditorium of Belchertown High School for the school's 147th commencement on Friday, June 1, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Belchertown Public Schools Superintendent Karol Coffin, right, takes a photograph of seniors, from left, Corey Dolgas (partly obscured by balloons), Benjamin Wood, Kyle Zielinski, Zachary Bonetti, Aidan Griffiths and Jordan Adadevoh prior to the 147th Belchertown High School commencement on Friday. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Henry Langlois, left, Stephanie Thrasher and Benjamin Wood pose for a photo in the cafeteria before the 147th Belchertown High School commencement on Friday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/2/2018 12:27:27 AM

BELCHERTOWN — Belchertown High School’s 147th Commencement ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance, as hundreds of parents, siblings and relatives packed into a stuffy gymnasium fanning themselves with the paper programs.

The graduates — all 164 — heard much about the need to think for themselves.

“In an era which is increasingly driven by the power of ideas — good ideas, constructive ideas and destructive ideas — you will only continue to soar if you develop, test, assess and reassess your own ideas constantly,” principal Christine Vigneux told the graduating class. “You are Orioles; don’t let others do your thinking for you.”

Amanda Gould, a graduate of the Belchertown High School Class of 1988, delivered the commencement address. In her speech she emphasized the way that technology is changing the workforce, and advised graduates on the ways they can best prepare themselves for the future by acquiring a diverse set of skills, learning to adapt to changing environments, and cultivating real human connections.

“Technology is changing our world constantly and aggressively,” said Gould, chief administrative officer for The American Women’s College at Bay Path University. “Harnessing the power of technology in our educational spaces to deepen our understanding, build vital connection with one another that allow for more personalized pathways for learning, that is what I believe we owe you.”

Quoting a 2017 report by Dell Technologies, Gould said that the graduates will spend 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime, and 85 percent of the jobs they will fill have not yet been invented.

“You, more than ever before, have to work harder at combating the slide towards automation and isolation,” Gould said.

Salutatorian Ryan Chrabascz also used his speech to explain how meaningful human relationships are the key to happiness and success. He warned his peers against the blind accumulation of wealth, and made reference to his own fear of public speaking.

Parker Mas served dually as the class valedictorian president, delivering two speeches during the ceremony. During his presidential speech, he reflected on the nature of leadership.

“Leadership is rejecting complacency and cynicism in favor of action and determination,” Mas said. “It’s finding what you really care about and rejecting that notion that the status quo can’t be changed, fixed or improved upon.”

Mas continued by warning his peers about the perils of the modern era, “We are being handed a world facing more issues than ever before, and that means that we have no choice but to rise to the task of tackling those problems.”

For Gould, a 1988 graduate of Belchertown High School, delivering the commencement speech coincided with her own 20-year graduation anniversary. She is the spouse of Geoffrey Gould, a music teacher at Swift River Elementary School who helped the school acquire six used pianos from Westfield State University earlier this year. Brian Messier, the high school band director, said the used pianos have helped the program expand their musical offerings and incorporate more piano pieces into their ensembles.

“Everything has been put to regular use already,” Messier said. “Having more pianists involved, that’s already expanding. There’s more opportunities, more instruments available to (the students) and I can program stuff that uses pianos without having to worry about how we’re going to deal with the logistics.”

During her remarks, Vigneux compared the downing of a Southwest Airlines flight in April to the unknown challenges facing the graduates today. Quoting the pilot Tammie Jo Shultz, she said that Belchertown students had the “altitude and ideas” to succeed and find their place in the world.

“Use the advantage of that altitude — a bird’s eye view — to assess every situation with a healthy dose of perspective,” she said. “Orioles soar, and the altitude they attain is limited only by the energy they are willing to expend while flying. Maintain your altitude and your flight is likely to go well.”

Sarah Robertson can be reached at

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