LENOX, Mass. — The 64 members of the Lenox Memorial High School class of 2017 were sent of to new beginnings with the challenge to "let the weird out."
Valedictorian Joseph Bouvier said he'd learned that as a member of the school's improvisational comedy troupe, which he'd joined as a sophomore.
In fact, he told the graduation gathering at the Koussevitsky Shed at Tanglewood, much of what he'd learned in improv could be transferred as life lessons.
A basic factor in developing improv, Bouvier said, was using the term "yes, and."
"You first need to first need to accept other people's ideas, that's the 'yes,' and each one of us adds onto it to make the scene grow" he said. So when they hear excuses like, "it's always been done this way," or "it won't work," remember to say, "Yes, and ... ."
The second lesson he learned was not to take himself too seriously. It was only when he stopped trying too hard to be funny that his was able to flow with his improv partners.
"Improv humor comes from real-time reactions, not a carefully laid-out plans ... in real life we can try to make plans," Bouvier said. "However, we never really know when certain things will happen, there will always be events that occur unexpectedly and we can only find success when we're able to improvise."
Most importantly, he said, was "letting out the weird" as it had been explained to him. Allowing himself to say or act out as situations changed and not being afraid to do it.
"Whether we realized it or not, each and everyone one of us has been improving every single day and wether we like it or not, we're going to keep doing it for the rest of our lives," Bouvier said. "So remember, don't take yourself too seriously appreciate other's individuality and talents, be flexible, try to start with 'yes, and,' and don't forgot, let the weird out."
Salutatorian Emmaeve Jourdain took the class on a reflective tour of the building they'd attended for seven years. A couple weeks before, she'd help give tours of the school to excited future sixth-graders and their parents, tours that had dredged up mostly happy memories of classmates, teachers and events.
"I remembered things from all different ages and classes," she said. "The tough times like reading 'How Sugar Changed the World' during summer for Mr. Fisher's history class, the silly times of creating music videos in French class and the fun times like watching 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' in Mrs. Gray's class."
Like those children excited about this next step in their lives, so, too, is the class of 2017 about to enter into a new chapter. With that opportunity in mind, they should consider getting out of their comfort zones, she said.
"I challenge my classmates, wherever you find yourself next year to do something different. Maybe if you've always been that sports kid, you could try being in a play. Maybe it is a new internship, or a new club, or traveling to a new place," Jourdain said. "It could just be making a group of new friends. As cliché as it sounds, this world has so many opportunities and I hope you all fight to find them and experience them.
"Fight for those things that make your eyes light up when you talk about them with a friend or that make shivers run down your spine."
Class Treasurer Sophie Usow, who designed the cover of the graduation program, led the gathering in the saying the Pledge of Allegiance; Megan Gamache sang the "Star-Spangled Banner"; and Superintendent Timothy Lee, School Committee Chairman Robert Vaughan adn Assistant Principal Brian Cogswell presented the diplomas.
Before heading out to the lawn to toss caps in celebration, seven students offered their own reflections on the class. Cameron Sweener, class President Shon Loftus, Michelle Haftl, Elias Williams, Sophia Cahillane, Alexandra Trousilek and Lindsay Blair spoke of support from teachers, lessons learned, that sometimes failure breeds success, and the school's diversity and opportunities, and, in one case, a poem.
Principal Michael Knybel presented the class and it wished all of them well.
"You are beyond measure, you have been the champions of self-worth, you are why I wake up in the morning," he told them. "If there is any doubt in your mind hear this: You are worthy of love and connection. You deserve it and it's yours and believe it. We love you. Lenox loves our students."
More photos from the graduation will be available later today.
northadams.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.