Sophia Cohen tells the story of her first trip to summer camp, where she spent too much time worrying about going home and missed a chance to embrace the experience. More photos can be found here.
LENOX, Mass. — Join them.
That's what Monument Mountain valedictorian Sophia Cohen advised her fellow classmates on Sunday when the school held its 50th commencement. Cohen told a story about when she was 10 years old and went to a two-week summer camp.
But, she spent the whole first week trying to find an excuse to leave. During that week, she remember a group of girls going to the pool and she wanted to go. But, she was too focused on trying to go home, too worried about her parents at him.
She returned home and told her mother about the pool and her mother responded that she could have gone to pool, and that it was only her telling herself not to.
"The next year I went back to camp. When I was leaving my mom gave me a rock she had found outside. On the rock she wrote 'join them.' I brought the rock to camp and I put in on my dresser and everyday when I woke up I looked at the rock and said to myself 'today is another day to join them,'" Cohen said. "I've spent a lot of time reflecting on what I learned my first summer at camp. Over the years, I've tried to implement, in every aspect of my life, what my mom taught me when she handed me that rock."
When Cohen was 10, she didn't understand that life continues to move, the good times and the bad times will all pass.
"The bad times in our lives will pass. And the good times in our lives will pass. The world keeps moving despite what may be happening in our individual lives. So we must fully embrace what is happening now," Cohen said. "When I was 10 I didn't fully realize that life passes us by and I did not let myself enjoy the moments I was living."
The class of 138 students have seen high school years pass. Cohen says although everybody knows where they are going next, they don't know what the experience will be like. But she wants her classmates to embrace change.
"We can't be afraid of moving forward. This is the path of life. It is time to move forward and onto a different stage. When I was 10, I did not realize that home would still be here, mostly the same, when I would return after camp had ended," Cohen said.
Salutatorian Camille Beckwith told the class that when they do move into the future, not to keep a one-track mind and to take detours. And no matter way, "just have fun."
"Tell your friends you love them and hug a dog. I know I am going to," Beckwith said. "The world needs more joy and what is more joyful than you friends and puppies?"
She told her classmates to stop stressing about small things, thing that won't matter much in the future anyway, and focus on the important things. She said if the students can do that and live lives filled with honesty, joy, and integrity, the students will make their mark on the world and in turn, that would be a repaying Monument Mountain for everything it did for them.
The graduation ceremony was special not just for the students, but for the school, and for Principal Marianne Young. The school's milestone of 50 years was recognized and the district's very first valedictorian, Jamie Carr, was seated on the stage to honor the occasion.
"The world is a much different place than when [the high school] was formed in the 1960s but what has not changed is the quality of the education." School Committee Chairman Stephen Bannon said.
Sunday was also Young's last graduation ceremony. She is retiring after 16 years with the district. After all of the students received their diplomas, Bannon still had one left to give to Young, making her an alumni.
"She has always been an advocate for each and every story," he said.
The ceremony also featured the Spartones singing "In My Life" by the Beatles and the graduates bouncing inflatable beach balls in the Koussevitzky Music Shed. After turning their tassels and being pronounced as graduates, the they proceeded out to the lawn, where a slight drizzle had started, to take photos and celebrate with family and friends.
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