Mount Everett graduates leave with an eye on the future, and a focus on the now

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PHOTO GALLERY | 2017 Mount Everett Graduation

LENOX - Some will study fashion, some will learn to build things for the military, and some don't know what they want to do yet.

"I like babies and dealing with people," said Chandler Degrenier, who graduated from Mount Everett Regional High School Saturday. She wants to be a maternity nurse and will go to Berkshire Community College in the fall for nursing.

"Hopefully defense contracting," said Ellis Waldman, when asked what he wanted to do with a degree in mechanical engineering from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., where he is headed.

"The defense budget's going up and up," he noted.

Despite these typical and sweeping contrasts, it's a small, tight-knit rural school where students know how to stand by each other, especially after a year that saw a tragedy.

Mount Everett Principal Glenn Devoti said this is why the song, Stand by Me, chosen for the Class of 2017 graduation at Tanglewood, was fitting for this crew.

And, yes, as if that feeling were in their bones, the Mount Everett Chorus did a moving a cappella rendition of it under the direction of Director Daniel Kringer.

"All the calamities in that song," Devoti said, all that crumbling, tumbling and falling, he said, are no match for a school that both he and Superintendent David Hastings said prides itself on relationships and care among students and teachers.

"It's a culture that encourages kids to shine," Hastings added.

And Devoti said the class of 47 students would graduate knowing they "were cared for very, very deeply," and said this was more important than all the scholarships and the athletic awards.

The Sheffield school - one of five in the Southern Berkshire Regional School District - is beloved, partly for its small class size and village schools in other district towns.

"We have more cows than people in our little town," said Valedictorian Kayla Krom, adding that this is good, but can also be hard.

"Everyone knows your business," she said.

But Krom, an ace student headed for Worcester Polytechnic Institute, said she understands more than just how to be a good student, after her older brother, Kenneth "Kenny" Krom was killed in an April car accident. Krom had graduated from Mount Everett last year, and his death at 19, she said, was "an unimaginable situation."

"Acknowledge the unpredictability," Krom said. "I learned it this year."

But, Krom said, not everything is uncertain. "What you do is something you have control over."

Her brother lost his opportunity to pursue his passions, she added, and advised her peers to not let their chance slip away.

"We have this opportunity, so don't misuse it."

And Salutatorian Kenneth Edwards, headed for Wake Forest University cautioned against only looking to the future, yet another nod to the power of staying present in life and work.

"Keep one eye on the future with the other focusing on now," he said, noting that those futures are "very expensive."

"Those futures may not have given us much money for now," Edwards added, "but at least we have plenty of time to spend."

And it was this philosophy, in part, that pulled the Maggio family from Brooklyn, N.Y., to South Egremont in 1993, and specifically for this school district.

"We read about the new [Mount Everett] campus," said Ellen Maggio, whose daughter Eliza, today, is her third and last child to graduate from the school. "We thought, `here's a community that cares about the kids.'"

Voice breaking, Ellen Maggio said her girls had started at the South Egremont School - "with its white picket fence" - a two-room village schoolhouse that may close this year due to funding issues.

"I'm very excited and a little nervous," said Eliza Maggio. She said this was because she and fellow graduate Jesse Smerechniak were to sing the National Anthem during the commencement, "and we're both sick."

It was the white water rafting - the class trip - that likely did it, they said.

The graduates will now go in all different directions, though some will stay closer to home. Most are going to college.

But Hastings, who retires this year, said what happens in high school isn't always a barometer of future success. He said he had graduated from high school without big achievements, and said there is "hope" for those like him.

"Work until you fall down, and when you fall down, pick weeds," he said, quoting a saying he learned in the military.

He said it is all about moving forward - staying open to new directions in life.

And single moms don't have a choice. Cheryl Cardillo - a mother of four, whose son Cassius Conaway is the last to graduate from Mount Everett - said she was "emotional, sad, happy and excited" to reach this new time in life, where the children she raised on her own are all grown up.

"Yesterday was Cassius' last of everything at the school," she said. "His last meal, his last basketball game. Being a single mom makes it even harder. I cried for days."

Conaway will go to American International College, a technical school in Springfield, said Cardillo, who works in the school cafeteria.

"And it makes me proud," she added, "Because I did it all by myself."

Reach staff writer Heather Bellow at 413-329-6871


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