MacDuffie grads learned ‘Our voices deserve to be heard’

  • Danila Shestakov, left, Kirill Lazarev, Mikhail Galaktinov, Avery Murphy, Jesse Bordenca and Jonah Abrams pose for a multiple selfie before the graduation ceremony. MAUREEN O’REILLY/FOR THE GAZETTE

  • Darcie Mavlouganes helps graduating senior Zhenhao Wang with his corsage before the MacDuffie School’s graduation Saturday in South Hadley. MAUREEN O’REILLY/FOR THE GAZETTE

  • Chenxi Ariel Pu walks to her seat after receiving her diploma Saturday at the MacDuffie School graduation in South Hadley. MAUREEN O’REILLY/FOR THE GAZETTE

For the Gazette
Published: 6/8/2019 6:54:27 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Songs, speeches and cheers echoed throughout Abbey Chapel during The MacDuffie School’s graduation ceremony, which sent 77 graduates from 15 countries off into the world.

Student body President Talia Wiesel, who started MacDuffie in the eighth grade, reminded her classmates what qualities they learned from students and teachers at MacDuffie.

“They taught us that we are valuable members of society, and that our voices deserve to be heard,” Wiesel said. This lesson rang true for Wiesel, who said that at first, she was nervous to speak in front of others.

“But once I realized that I did have the ability to use my voice, even if it was terrifying, I couldn’t stop speaking out and constantly wanting to do more. MacDuffie does that to you,” Wiesel said.

Wiesel recounted another lesson she learned from her classmates.

“The most important thing that you all taught me is that it’s OK to take chances, to make mistakes, or maybe even fail,” Wiesel said.

Wiesel urged her classmates to foster kindness, determination, and acceptance as they go forth into the world.

“I know that there are so many people who you have yet to meet, people you will transform with all of your uniquely amazing qualities, and so many people who will transform you,” Wiesel said.

Olivia Ramirez-Weissbach, Head Duty Prefect, began her senior address by thanking those who supported the seniors all the way up until their graduation.

“I have so much respect for everyone here today. All of the amazing graduates, and all of the faculty, family, and friends that have helped us to get to this point,” Ramirez-Weissbach said.

Ramirez-Weissbach invoked the values of community, integrity, respect, creativity, leadership and excellence, the CIRCLE values of The MacDuffie school, and urged her classmates to use them to going forward.

“We are all leaving this community, but we shouldn’t forget about it,” Ramirez-Weissbach said.

Using examples of literary authors as her guide, English Department Chairwoman Carol Tomkiel told the graduates she hopes they will “hear the call to your own authentic life.”

Along their future journeys, Tomkiel urged graduates to make and keep true friends, “someone that can see the jewel down inside of you.”

During the ceremony, Head of School Steven Griffin handed out academic awards, with Yunxia Hallowell garnering four of them.

Griffin recognized Jesse Bordenca, Georgianna Brown, Olivia Ferr and Mia Levesque with “survivor certificates” for having begun MacDuffie as sixth graders.

Before the graduation exercises, MacDuffie students said they were eager for the next chapters in their lives.

“I’m excited for college,” Turec Akalin said.

Classmate Mustafa Berke Gureltol, 19, agreed, adding, “It’s been a tough year.”

Both students are from Turkey and started at MacDuffie two years ago. In the fall, Akalin will attend Purdue University to study finance and Gureltol will attend UMass Amherst to study computer science.

For Aurora Basnet, 19, of Granby, leaving MacDuffie hasn’t hit yet.

“I’m numb,” Basnet said, although she is excited to go to Cornell in the fall to study global and public health. Basnet reminded herself that “for one chapter to end, you need to begin a new one.”


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