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Belchertown High grads told to keep asking questions

170 members of the Class of 2016 take flight

  • Graduates walk in the processional of the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Jackie Johnson, left, and Emma Cyr, both 18, take a photo together before the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. DAN LITTLE

  • Jordan Gamache gives the salutatory address during the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates walk in the processional of the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Belchertown High School's 145th commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates walk in the processional of the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates of the class of 2016 during the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates of the class of 2016 during the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates walk in the processional of the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony. DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates walk in the processional of the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates walk in the processional of the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Graduates walk in the processional of the 145th Belchertown High School commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Belchertown High School's 145th commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE

  • Belchertown High School's 145th commencement ceremony Friday in Belchertown. —DAN LITTLE



For the Gazette
Tuesday, June 07, 2016

BELCHERTOWN — The themes of the evening June 3 were flight and striving, as 170 seniors awaited their diplomas in the packed Belchertown High School gymnasium during a ceremony that included a commencement speech by a member of the class of 2003.

Stephen Mathras, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, and has for the last four years been working as an Innovation Project Engineer for Nike, told the class of 2016: “Success has less to do with what other people think of you, than with what you think of yourself.”

An avid surfer, endurance bicyclist and climber, Mathras urged students to push themselves beyond their comfort zones.

The high school principal, Christine Vigneux, set the tone for the evening by saying that Orioles, the school’s mascot, are “high fliers.”

She noted that this is the 100th anniversary of direct radio communication between pilots in the air, and the 30th anniversary of the movie “Top Gun.” She connected those events to graduation by saying that as the students take off from the “comfortable nest” of high school, they should remember that “flying is not just a matter of altitude but of attitude.”

The class president, Benjamin Stone, joked that his classmates looked fabulous, but that it was embarrassing that they all showed up in the same dress, referring to the black graduation gowns.

He based his speech on Gillian Lynne, who choreographed Broadway hit musicals including “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.” When Lynne was in school, he said, she would have probably been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but fortunately a doctor who might otherwise have diagnosed her with learning disabilities saw how she responded to music.

That doctor urged her parents to arrange dance lessons at a young age. Stone received an ovation for criticizing the “growing emphasis on standardized testing” and on “conforming over creating.”

The salutatorian was Jordan Gamache and the valedictorian was Angela Grabazs.

Superintendent Karol Coffin noted the patience of the students’ caregivers, back when they were much younger, citing research showing that between the ages of 2 and 5, children on average ask 40,000 questions.

Her message for the class of 2016: “I hope you will not cease to ask questions as you move forward in life.”

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com.