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Students’ individuality on display at Chinese Immersion Charter School graduation

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School graduates Rhiannon Toole, left, and Emma Lama adjust their mortarboards before graduation, Friday at the school. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School graduate Olivia Clarkewright makes an adjustment to her mortar board before commencement, Friday, June 1, 2018 at the school. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School graduates Sonja Eiseman, left, and Emma Lama adjust their mortarboards before graduation, June 1 at the school. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School graduates Evan Xie, left, and Andrew Brown rehearse a song before commencement Friday at the school. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School perform an exercise said to benefit the eyes before graduation June 1 at the school. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



For the Bulletin
Thursday, June 07, 2018

HADLEY — “I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that you are all extraordinary,” faculty speaker Bruce Rubin said in his address to the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School’s Class of 2018.

Of the 11 graduates, 10 were International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidates, four were National Honor Society members and all will go on to pursue higher education.

The Class of 2018 was the second class to graduate from PVCICS, a K-12 charter school which opened in the fall 2007. Classes are taught in both English and Mandarin. The graduation was held Friday evening in the school’s gymnasium.

Rubin’s speech highlighted the ways the students had pushed the envelope over the course of their education.

“You are not afraid to challenge orthodoxy and authority,” Rubin said to the class. “‘Just because’ is not a response that you are willing to accept.”

True to Rubin’s characterization, the students broke with the scheduled programming and took to the stage to deliver heartfelt messages of thanks to teachers that had helped them along their academic careers. There were tears.

Class speaker Sonja Eiseman from Williamsburg also thanked the teachers in her speech.

“With your guidance, college isn’t so abstract.” Eiseman said to the faculty, “PVCICS made sure that higher education was a possibility for everyone.”

Eiseman will continue to practice her Mandarin in Taiwan this summer and will start school in the fall at Barnard College in New York, where she plans to study international relations as a pre-law major.

But Eiseman says no matter where she ends up, she will always “hold on to an appreciation for Chinese language and culture.”

Co-class speaker Evan Xie addressed his fellow graduates on the importance of “failing first.”

The IB program was challenging, Xie said, and he felt tempted to give up almost every day.

“But we did not quit,” Xie said. “We chose to succeed because we believed in our futures. I am honored to say that we made it.”

In the fall, Xie will be attending the University of New York in Shanghai — a choice, he said, that was a direct result of the education he received at PVCICS.

“If I hadn’t gone to school here, I don’t think I would be remotely interested in Chinese,” Xie told the Gazette.

The commencement ceremony included a performance of David Bowie’s “Heroes” by Andrew Brown and Evan Xie as well as the impromptu thanking of the teachers. Each of the graduates had a chance to make their voice heard.

While the program praised individual achievement, the graduates did not forget those who had helped them along their way.

Along with their diplomas, the graduates were given two pink roses. At the end of the ceremony, the graduates went into the crowd of friends, family and teachers to present their roses and express their gratitude.

Principal Kathleen Wang echoed the sentiment of communality in her speech.

“It’s not just the efforts of one or a few but of all of those here,” she said.