Smith Academy Class of 2024 ‘small’ and ‘mighty’

Emma Moynihan listens during a speech at the Smith Academy Graduation ceremony Friday evening.

Emma Moynihan listens during a speech at the Smith Academy Graduation ceremony Friday evening. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Seniors from Smith Academy  celebrate graduating at the end of ceremony Friday night.

Seniors from Smith Academy celebrate graduating at the end of ceremony Friday night. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By Elise Linscott

For the Gazette

Published: 06-09-2024 2:30 PM

HATFIELD — At Smith Academy on Friday, 19 graduates walked step by step into the Sherry A. Webb Gymnasium while “Pomp and Circumstance” played on the piano. Dressed in purple and white caps and gowns, they took their seats on the stage in front of families and supporters.

It’s a class that Smith Academy Principal Conor Driscoll praised for their collective strength of character, community, and work ethic.

“This class, though small, is mighty,” Driscoll said. “In their midst you see ... students who have not had everything handed to them, but who’ve had to claw through adversity to get to this stage and who are ultimately stronger because of it. You see friends who, despite spanning the geography of the entire Pioneer Valley, have prioritized relationships and who have formed the strongest of bonds with each other.

“You see a class in front of you today that is stronger because of its size, not despite it,” Driscoll said.

In her speech, Class President Emilia Neves said attending Smith Academy had been a valuable life experience.

“We’ve all worked hard to accomplish a goal we set for ourselves,” Neves said. “In the process, we learned how to stay focused on our goal while enjoying our high school years together… and looking back, I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Before the ceremony started, graduate and class secretary Cathryn Kokoski said she was “excited to be done and to get into the real world.” Kokoski said she plans to work a few jobs this summer, then in the fall decide if she’ll go to Springfield Technical Community College or go into the trades.

Valedictorian Emma Moynihan said in her speech that although the gowns made them look like “Hogwarts dropouts” and the caps were “clearly designed by someone who didn’t have to wear them — it’s a fashion statement,” she said. They were also a statement that the class was “ready to move on from high school and tackle the real world.”

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“Six years ago, we walked into this school with wide eyes, big dreams, and an unhealthy obsession with Snapchat filters,” Moyniihan said. “Now, here we stand, a little taller, as slightly less awkward seniors who can still struggle with basic tasks, but progress is progress.

“We have so much to look forward to right outside of these doors,” Moynihan continued. “New schools to explore, new careers to pursue, and new experiences and adventures.”

Smith Academy is a public combination junior and high school that starts at seventh grade. It has a student population of 175, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“If you were to ask me what I would like for everyone graduating tonight, my answer would be simple: I want you all to be happy,” said Jason Duncan, dean of student support, in his commencement address. “That may not look the same for everyone. Some of you may find that your ideas of happiness will change over time, and that’s OK. As the great philosopher Spongebob Squarepants once said, ‘Always follow your heart. Unless your heart is bad at directions.’

“Go forth from Smith Academy and find what makes you happy and hold onto it,” Duncan said.. “Find that person, place, career, or whatever it is that brings you true happiness and let everything else fall into place around that.”

Graduates

Starla Alimonos, Isaak Baranoski, Meghan Bell, Landon Crevier, Ben Hudzik, Cathryn Kokoski, Emma Moynihan, Emilia Neves, Matthew Orth, Daniel Petroff, Rachael Spence, Samuel Stanton, Gregory Stone, Abigail Watling, Ducanson Webster, Ayden Whalen, Jacob Williams, Jacob Yagodzinski