FCTS Class of 2018 Urged to Embrace Experience and Seize Opportunities

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TURNERS FALLS, MA – During Franklin County Technical School’s 42nd commencement, guest speaker Dr. Lindsey Cole said the graduates were leaving with “not just a diploma, but with tangible skills.”

“You should all recognize the valuable knowledge you gained here at Franklin County Technical School,” she said.

Cole, who graduated from FCTS in 2004 and will teach at Oklahoma City University in the fall, called the tech school “a haven, a home, a sanctuary,” when she was a student there. She urged the graduates to treasure every experience and not be afraid to choose their own path.

The graduation ceremony opened with FCTS Principal Shawn W. Rickan greeting the 117 members of the Class of 2018 and the large crowd of family members, friends, and tech school teachers, administrators and staff. The event was held under an outdoor tent on the campus of Greenfield Community College.

Following his opening remarks, Rickan brought the family of Connor Powers to the stage to accept the late electrical student’s honorary diploma. Powers, a member of the Class of 2018, died following a car accident last November.

In his remarks, Richard J. Kuklewicz, FCTS School Committee chairman, urged the students to make the most of what they learned at the school.

“Take what you learned, build on it, seize opportunities, give back to your community and fellow man, and be the best you can be,” he said.

FCTS Superintendent Richard J. Martin said the Class of 2018 had “been through a lot together and have come together like no other class I have experienced.” He said the class was determined to strive to reach their goals, succeed, and exuded great confidence in themselves.

“You have come a long way in a short time as one of the most compassionate, empathetic and caring students I have ever had the pleasure to know,” Martin said.

The superintendent said FCTS academic and vocational teachers emphasized to the students the value of accountability, employable skills, and hard work to reach their potential and push forward through obstacles.

“There will always be barriers to your success, but it is how you approach these barriers which will define you and creates the foundation of your experiences,” he said. “And it is these experiences that you can draw upon when you get older to make future decisions. The only problem with experience is you never graduate from them. Experiences we learn from are earned through hard work; if your experiences come easy than learning from them becomes difficult. Let the Class of 2018 be defined by your willingness to learn from mistakes, take risks, and aspire to achieve the challenges in front of you.”

Class President Kyle Bry said, as the grandson of a farmer, who started picking beans at age 3, and whose father taught him to weld when he was 7-years-old, he learned at an early age the value of hard work. He thanked his family, the school and his classmates for their support throughout his four years at FCTS.

“I feel as though I’m surrounded by great classmates,” he said.

Valedictorian Jaxon Rollins said all of the hard work he and his classmates did for the last four years pays off on this, their graduation day. He pointed out that there were 42 seniors working cooperative education jobs this year in several industries in the area, the most students ever out in the workforce.

“This year’s seniors might be the hardest working class the tech school has ever seen,” Rollins said. “I see a new generation of hard workers. I see young adults ready to take on the next phase of their lives.”

Out on the GCC lawn following the ceremony, the graduates hugged relatives and friends, and accepted congratulations from FCTS teachers, staff and administrators.

Graduates like Kevin Cardona-Cruz of Greenfield, a graduate of the Programming and Web Design program, were thinking of the next steps they’ll take in their post- high school lives. Cardona-Cruz will be attending GCC and is thinking of returning next year to his native Puerto Rico to learn hammock weaving, a craft that is practiced by family members.

Jocelyn Holloway of Northfield, a graduate of the Plumbing program, is hoping to attend Keene Beauty Academy in Keene, New Hampshire in the fall.

“What I liked best about coming to the tech school was all of the friends I made here,” she said. “I’ll miss my friends.”

Courtanie Howe, another Northfield resident, said her Culinary program was “amazing” and she will miss her classmates and teachers.

“The school helps you express yourself through the shops,” she said. “They let you be artistic and creative.”

Patrick Monaghan, a Programming and Web Design graduate is attending Rochester Institute of Technology in September for video game design. The Amherst resident said his teachers made his classes informative and interesting.

“I liked what I was learning in shop and from my academic teachers,” Monaghan said. “They were supportive, kind, and friendly and they knew their stuff. They were more than just teachers; they were friends as well.”

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