PVCICS sends off ‘unique and robust’ graduates

By MERCEDES LINGLE

For the Gazette

Published: 06-01-2023 1:17 PM

HADLEY — There are few graduations like the one that takes place at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, where the student speakers kick off their talks in Mandarin.

It’s fitting, of course, as they’ve been immersed in the language for which their school is named since kindergarten.

Both student speakers at the school’s seventh annual commencement ceremonies Wednesday, Dexter Knight-Richard and Augusto Schwanz, acknowledged at the outset of their speeches that many in the audience would not understand the words — at least until they reverted to English. But the sentiments of what they were saying certainly came through.

Schwanz emphasized the individuality of the 19 members of the Class of 2023, calling them a “unique and robust group of people” who could not be distilled down into one word. Knight-Richard expressed immense gratitude toward faculty and staff, giving his thanks to each of them with a comment detailing their personal connection to him.

The ceremony featured the PVCICS Orchestra leading the seniors down a red-carpet-style graduation aisle to the traditional tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” There were also speeches from faculty and the “turning-of-the-tassel” moment.

However, the ceremony featured many nontraditional elements.

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In a reflection of the style of the school itself, with students being immersed in the Mandarin language since kindergarten, there were many times in which the ceremony showcased the unique style of PVCICS. Most significantly, the “IB” or International Baccalaureate program was frequently referenced by students and staff alike as a significant challenge the students had overcome.

The program, which offers university-level courses, is required for high school students at the charter school. Knight-Richard called the IB program “draining” and “rigorous,” while congratulating his fellow classmates for their successes in it.

Even the chosen staff speaker, Dan McCarthy, made a joke about how the 2023 graduating class had been the first class since the COVID-19 pandemic “lucky enough” to take all of their IB exams. Over and over, the tremendous efforts of the students to get through online schooling, the IB program, and the general challenges of high school were acknowledged.

In her welcome speech, Principal Kathleen Wang said that even though the graduates were “done” with PVCICS requirements, the definition of “done” when it came to their education was left to the students to define. As for how they should spend their time now that they are through with their high school education, she advised putting away social media, as “life is not like a TikTok video.”

“We will miss you ... we honestly will,” Wang said to the graduates.

All of the graduates are headed to higher education institutions, and many are traveling out of state or country to do so.

The ceremony closed with a final acknowledgment not only of the efforts put in by the staff and students toward their education, but by the families in the audience. As a part of PVCIC’s “Presentation of Flowers,” each graduate was given two flowers to give out to their family members as a symbol of gratitude.

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