Pioneer celebrates 25 graduates

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School Valedictorian Ella Edwards speaks during commencement ceremonies Friday night in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School Salutatorian Lucy Koester addresses those gathered for commencement ceremonies Friday night in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School seniors deal with the wind during commencement ceremonies Friday night in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School seniors stand for the national anthem sung by the school chorus Friday night in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School Valedictorian Ella Edwards speaks during commencement Friday night in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School graduates Friday night in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

For the Recorder
Published: 6/3/2022 9:51:34 PM
Modified: 6/3/2022 9:49:35 PM

NORTHFIELD — It was a warm but windy Friday at Pioneer Valley Regional School, where 25 graduating seniors walked out of the building that had been their second home for six years. Struggling to hold onto their mortarboards, they marched one by one toward the stage, with their parents cheering them on.

The ceremony was opened by Principal Kevin Burke, who told the family members of the graduates, “It is your love, support and commitment that has made this accomplishment possible.”

Burke told the story of when a young Bob Dylan wrote the song “My Back Pages.” Noting the line, “Ah, but I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now,” he said this was indicative of Dylan rejecting the revolutionary zeal of his youth, but also realizing his potential for hypocrisy. Burke wants the students to be like Dylan, and realize that though they may not always maintain the rebelliousness of youth, they should build on the values that they learned at Pioneer.

Interim Superintendent Patricia Kinsella called Friday’s graduation a beautiful sight.

“Whatever you are doing,” said Kinsella, “know that in this little district, you matter and you are loved.”

Salutatorian Lucy Koester, who is excited to give back to her community, recalled her first time at Pioneer, when she was a toddler visiting an open house. As she watched her older brothers attend and graduate from Pioneer, she was excited to follow them. However, she recalled, when her class first came to Pioneer in 2016, one-third of the staff was laid off, forcing her to adjust her expectations.

While lamenting the decline of rural public schools, and criticizing public education for failing to take into account inequalities among the student body, Koester praised “spontaneous conversations and unexpected collaborations” that have kept the school together.

“I believe it is partially these challenges that our community has faced that have made us stronger,” Koester said.

Class President Kensey Gibson, who gave an opening address for the keynote speaker, said she is “so stoked” to graduate. When asked about her favorite memory, she said it is working with School Resource Officer Billy Kimball.

“He was a really great help in all of the Student Council meetings,” Gibson said.

Valedictorian Ella Edwards said she is very happy that she stayed at Pioneer in spite of the declining student population.

“Other schools offer different opportunities, but I enjoy the culture, the staff and the programs here,” she said. “Pioneer’s art and science departments have great programs and opportunities, especially. These classes offered me the chance to try so many things I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Edwards said her time at Pioneer taught her to “ask for help, advocate for herself and express her own opinions.” Seeing her classmates’ passion for change makes Edwards hopeful for the future.

Closing her speech, Edwards said, “I want you all to know that I would rather be here with you than the greatest people on Earth. Congratulations, Class of 2022.”


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