‘Spirit and drive’ of Northampton High’s Class of ’22 hailed

  • Northampton High School Class of 2022 speaker Kamini Waldman addresses the senior class during graduation exercises Sunday at John M. Greene Hall at Smith College. FOR THE GAZETTE/SABADO VISCONTI

  • Northampton High School graduates Kaitlin Aquilino and Juno Arvelo line up outside of John M. Greene Hall at Smith College for the school’s 156th graduation exercises Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/SABADO VISCONTI

  • Northampton High School graduates look over the graduation program Sunday outside of John M. Greene Hall at Smith College. FOR THE GAZETTE/SABADO VISCONTI

  • Graduating Northampton High School seniors pack into the warm and cavernous John M. Greene Hall Sunday for commencement exercises at the Smith College venue. FOR THE GAZETTE/SABADO VISCONTI

  • Northampton High Class of 2022 Co-presidents Kendall Reynolds and Jackson Greene reflect on the past four years during graduation Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/SABADO VISCONTI

  • Northampton High School senior Lila Kirley laughs with friends outside of Smith College’s John M. Greene Hall before the school’s 156th graduation exercises Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/SABADO VISCONTI

Staff Writer
Published: 6/5/2022 9:29:17 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton High School Class of 2022 graduated Sunday in a ceremony marked by reflections on determination, loss, and the students’ history of high-visibility activism through hard and uncertain times.

School and city leaders handed out 218 diplomas during the 3 p.m. ceremony at Smith College’s John M. Greene Hall, the 156th NHS graduation.

Superintendent John Provost noted that the Class of 2022 is the third class to graduate during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he acknowledged the parents and other caregivers who turned their dining rooms and living rooms into makeshift classrooms for remote learning.

“Based on my knowledge of adolescents and young adults, it’s my guess that you had to provide them with varying levels of motivational talks, direct supervision and outright threats to get them to turn on the computer,” Provost said. “For that, I thank you.”

He then led those assembled in a moment of silence to honor the 6 million people who have died worldwide from COVID-19 and the victims of an ongoing “epidemic of gun violence” in the U.S. Later, he handed out academic excellence awards to five graduates: Alexander Caldanaro, Riley Cole, Rowan Howe, Ellen Matthews and David Nessel.

Sunday’s ceremony is expected to be Provost’s last as superintendent of Northampton Public Schools. Last week, he was hired to lead the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District pending contract negotiations that begin Tuesday.

The Class of 2022 chose graduate Kamini Waldman as its speaker. Warning her classmates about the struggles they will face in the years ahead, she raised the specters of climate change, Russia’s aggression against its neighbors, the possible dismantling of abortion rights by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the murders of 10 shoppers at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store last month.

“As we use the words ‘Black Lives Matter,’ understand that they are not merely an Instagram hashtag or a trend, but that they are a promise,” Waldman said. “A promise to stand up to injustice; a promise that you will not wait to engage in anti-racism work until the next Black person’s death, or the death of any person of color, is broadcast all over social media.”

Waldman said it’s critical to do the right thing “even when no one is looking.” She spoke of her friendship with Navaya Molina, an NHS student who died on Jan. 30, 2020, at age 16. Waldman said the two were “close childhood friends” and Molina taught her that “there is never a price to choosing kindness.”

The class co-presidents, Kendall Reynolds and Jackson Greene, gave a joint speech referring to the class as “a group of fighters” whose generation is fighting “existential crises” through the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements.

“Our ideas of school and safety began to shift as we saw children losing their lives at the cost of education. We saw devastation in our peers and communities, but we also saw a fire lit within them,” Reynolds said, pointing to student protests and walkouts pushing for tighter gun control. 

“We wanted change, we demanded change, and we had the voices and the power to provoke it. The same spark each and every one of us holds can be used in our futures.”

Greene also spoke of the student body’s appetite for activism, remarking that the “spirit and drive of our Class of 2022 cannot be matched.” He thanked staff and faculty for sharing their wisdom and guidance, and offered “a special thanks to Nurse (Wendy) Cooper and the nursing staff for your tireless efforts ensuring the health, safety and well-being of the NHS community during a global pandemic.”

The senior class presented the Mary Gray Teacher of the Year Award to Beau Flahive, the 22-year fine and performing arts teacher who vastly expanded music education at the school over her tenure and arranged three of the songs performed by students during the ceremony. She is retiring at the end of the school year.

Flahive led the Northamptones and the Chamber Choir in renditions of the Fleetwood Mac song “The Chain,” the Aerosmith song “Dream On,” and “Rivers & Roads” by The Head and The Heart.

“Thank you for your dedication, your never-ending joy and for going out with the right class,” said graduate Saenger Breen, presenting the award with Kenna Harrison.

Flahive received a sustained standing ovation from the nearly full house before giving a short speech and leading the crowd in a toast with their water bottles. She said the students should “soak in” the ceremony and the celebrations before the next chapter of life would begin in the morning.

“We’ve got to raise our cups to the Class of 2022,” Flahive said. “If you get to it, and you don’t do it, you may never get to it to do it again. So here’s to it.”

The Northampton High School Wind Ensemble also performed, led by director Paul Kinsman. Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra handed out diplomas alongside Associate Principals Meghan Harrison and Kara Sheridan.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.
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