Memories to guide Smith Academy graduates into life’s next stage

  • Smith Academy graduate Natalie Broga walks in the processional during graduation, Friday, May 31, 2019 at the school. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith Academy graduate Victoria Smiarowski walks in the processional during graduation, Friday, May 31, 2019 at the school. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith Academy graduate Charlotte Strickland-Vannah walks in the processional during graduation, Friday, at the school. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith Academy graduate Sophie Rice-Williams speaks during graduation, Friday, May 31, 2019 at the school. She earned third honors. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith Academy graduate Maia Seetal speaks during graduation, Friday, at the school. She is the valedictorian. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith Academy teacher Matthew Brown delivers the commencement address titled “Life is Like a Bag of Chili” during graduation, Friday, at the school. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith Academy graduate Margaret Herlihy speaks during graduation, Friday, May 31, 2019 at the school. She is the salutatorian. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith Academy graduate Chanthoeun Collins conducts the band in "Down a Country Lane" by Aaron Copland during graduation, Friday, May 31, 2019 at the school. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith Academy graduate Bailey Tougas walks in the processional during graduation, Friday, May 31, 2019 at the school. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith Academy graduate Nicholas Marcinowski walks in the processional during graduation, Friday, May 31, 2019 at the school. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 6/1/2019 12:29:27 AM

HATFIELD — There are three main features of Smith Academy that Class of 2019 valedictorian Maia Seetal said she will always remember.

The first, she said, were cheap $3 school lunches. The second, a water fountain in the school’s main lobby, which counted how many plastic bottles students saved when filling up reusable containers.

“I only used it like three times, but I probably saved at least half of a seal,” Seetal said to the crowd at the school’s 143rd commencement on Friday.

But above all that, she said, were the teachers and faculty who focused on helping her break from her natural introversion and into a successful graduate.

“They’re not just teachers,” she said. “They’re coaches, role models, mentors, confidants and occasionally, enablers.”

Seetal’s remarks gained the laughter of not only friends, family and faculty gathered in the gymnasium, but also the rest of her graduating class — 28 students in total.

And as the graduates sat on stage, surrounded on all sides by purple and white balloons and flowers, each guest speaker used the opportunity to impart wisdom on a new chapter in life.

“It’s crazy to think we were once as small as middle schoolers,” said salutatorian and class vice president Margaret Herlihy. “And now we’re about to be high school graduates.”

Herlihy encouraged her peers to pause and remember the fond memories that they had all experienced together. Whether it was by creating an unsuccessful schoolwide donation drive to purchase a Gucci belt, or through the class’ pre-Warrior Dash kickball victory, Herlihy said those moments strengthened them as a community.

“Thank you, Class of 2019, for giving me these memories. I am forever grateful,” she said.

After the presentation of the class gift, which was revealed to be a skirt that will go around the school’s stage, Smith Academy teacher Matthew Brown gave the commencement address.

Though life will present challenging moments, graduates must find time to appreciate, be present and contribute to get through them, he said. Throughout his speech, Brown left the podium, walked around the room and spoke about each student individually through colorful anecdotes.

“I think life … is more like a bag of chili. Like, a paper bag of chili,” Brown said. “And as long as you can slap a piece of duct tape, or three or four, over the leaks, stay positive, laugh a little and savor the moment. It’s all going to be OK.”

Before the ceremony, many students dressed in their graduation gowns were standing outside of the main lobby, taking advantage of the sunny weather for photos with family and friends.

One senior, Xavier Haas, said he was overwhelmed but excited to graduate from high school. Haas said he will attend Holyoke Community College in the fall, though he did not know what he wanted to study. “I’ve spent six years here, and now I’m graduating,” Haas said. “I’ve made a relationship with all of these teachers and all of these people.”




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