Orioles grads ready to fly the nest, Belchertown High graduates 178

  • Bri Leduc and Emily Gay, both from Belchertown, line up to head to the graduation ceremony at Belchertown High School on Friday night. ANDREW GRETO

  • Emilee Boivin gets final touches to her cap by her friend Abigail Gelinas. The two graduated from Belchertown High School Friday night. ANDREW GRETO

  • Sporting bow ties under their gowns, a group of Belchertown High School graduates are ready for the school’s graduation Friday night. ANDREW GRETO

  • Belchertown High School graduates Meissa Ligus, Abbie Moss and Enyonam Adoboe strike a pose before graduation ceremonies at the school Friday.

For the Gazette
Published: 6/7/2019 10:30:44 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Packed into the high school gym on Friday night, 178 Belchertown High School seniors reflected on their experience as Orioles, the school’s mascot, as they prepared to fly from the “nest.”

“Tonight’s graduation ceremony,” said Molly Freeman, the class salutatorian, “ends one chapter in our lives and starts another.”

Freeman reminded her fellow classmates of their hard work.

“I am proud of you — and myself — for overcoming the obstacles (that) school and life have thrown at us,” Freeman said.

Looking forward, Freeman said, “We have the potential to succeed and make a difference.”

Principal Christine Vigneux said that when she was preparing the diplomas for the ceremony, she recalled how each student left their “signature” on the Belchertown High community. She urged the graduates to think about how they will use their signatures, literally and figuratively, in the future.

“May you sign on for noble causes, sign up for meaningful work, and sign in to a global community which needs you,” Vigneux said.

Guest speaker and 2009 alumnus Evan Dell’Olio told the graduates to let the close-knit bonds of the school’s community propel them into the world.

Along their journeys, Dell’Olio asked the graduates to remember their self-worth.

“The key is not to ever forget that each one of you has something to share with those around you,” Dell’Olio said.

He reminded the crowd that learning continues after high school.

“When you get out into the world, don’t forget to stop and listen. There are others around you who will bring fresh perspectives and ideas that can enrich your world,” Dell’Olio said.

“Don’t ever be afraid to follow new pursuits and passions,” he added.

Interspersed in the ceremony, class president and valedictorian James Wang delivered two speeches.

Wang expressed gratitude for the support of family, friends, and the Orioles community, which he described as “the nest that has nurtured and welcomed us.”

“Now it’s time to leave the nest, but let us leave by flying together,” Wang said.

The night also held its share of tears.

Before Wang’s first speech, he asked for a moment of silence to honor classmate Brendan “Alaska” Conroy, who died in a car crash in March. The graduating class sported pins that read “Alaska 13,” a nickname given to Conroy as a freshman, after Conroy moved to Belchertown from out of state. The number 13 references Conroy’s hockey jersey. Conroy’s diploma was the last one given out and was picked up by his father, Joe, to a standing ovation.

Prior to graduation exercises, seniors expressed their mixed emotions on graduation.

“(I’m) excited, I guess, to finally move on with my life,” Jonathan Kuhn, 17, said.

Kuhn will study at Wentworth Institute of Technology in the fall.

“Sad, but happy. Very happy,” Sierra LaVoie, 18, said of the moment.

LaVoie and fellow bandmate Hunter Duseau, 17, said they would miss the band’s community but will take with them the fond memories of making music every day. In the fall, LaVoie will go to Holyoke Community College and Duseau will go to Baldwin Wallace University.

“It’s bittersweet,” Duseau said.

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