‘Be a change leader, a change maker,’ Hartsbrook grads told

  • Hartsbrook faculty members begin calling graduates forward to receive their diplomas Saturday at the school in Hadley. Jackie Richardson/for the Gazette

  • Student speaker Marina McDonald talked about the problems her generation is facing and how Hartsbrook has prepared graduates to meet those challenges. ​​​​​​Jackie Richardson/for the Gazette

  • Friends and family members celebrate with Hartsbrook  graduates after the 17 members of the Class of 2019 received their diplomas at the school Saturday. ​​​​​​Jackie Richardson/for the Gazette

  • Friends and family members celebrate with Hartsbrook graduates after the 17 members of the Class of 2019 received their diplomas at the school Saturday. Jackie Richardson/for the Gazette

For the Gazette
Published: 6/8/2019 6:57:01 PM

HADLEY — Hartsbrook School graduation speaker Virginia McWilliams noted that the 17 members of the Class of 2019 were entering a world that challenged their school’s basic premise: “that human beings, and the world, are fundamentally good.”

On a mild day on the school’s Hadley campus, both McWilliams, pedagogical chair of the school, and several student speakers reflected on the issues that undermined this belief. Marina McDonald, a graduating senior, listed some of the problems her generation was tasked with solving: they needed to work within a polarized political structure, step up to help their communities, and save the world, literally, from the current climate emergency.

“This was slightly overwhelming,” she said, laughing.

But although these challenges might seem to undermine the Waldorf school’s premise, McDonald noted that their Hartsbrook education equipped graduates to think about them in a careful, nuanced way. Recalling her class’s discussion of these challenges, McDonald credited her teachers for instilling in their students an understanding of the power everyone has to impact the world.

“Each of us has spent the majority of our lives so far in school,” she said. “How lucky I am that our school is Hartsbrook.”

Other student speakers echoed this sentiment and not only emphasized the importance of a Waldorf education — which structures curriculum around the belief that an education should nurture the whole person — but also described the happy memories they made while pursuing their education.

Class member Jordan Meier said her class called itself one of the craziest in the high school.

“We joked about how difficult and stressful our classes were, how reckless we were in ninth grade, and a bunch more like that. And there was some truth behind all the laughter! There still is. But our recklessness has turned into a love for adventure; our difficult classes made us more proactive, gave us a better grasp on how to use logic and creativity to solve our problems.”

Senior Willow Jarvis led the graduating class in singing her original song “Across the Lines,” which commemorated their time at Hartsbrook.

Toward the end of the ceremony, teachers presented diplomas to the seniors, along with short tributes to each of them. They celebrated students’ talents for dancing or writing or lighting design, and, in one case, ribbed a student for his chronic lateness one last time. At the recessional, teachers lined up to hug and congratulate graduates clutching flowers and their diplomas.

“Our minds and hearts are organs that continue to grow well past school,” McWilliams said. “Be courageous, practice every day the ability to be change – (that) allows you to be a change leader, a change maker.”

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