Photo Gallery | 2016 Hoosac Valley High School graduation

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CHESHIRE — Applause, cheers, laughter and tears marked the 46th Hoosac Valley High School graduation ceremony on Friday.


The 64-member class procession passed beneath a red-and-white balloon arch led by Class of 2017 member Noah Matrigali. A tradition of passing a small item to presenters continued as students handed ping-pong balls to those awarding the diplomas. Presenters were Hoosac Valley High School Principal Jeremiah C. Ames, Dean of Students Colleen Byrd, Class Advisor Jamie Lamour and Adams-Cheshire School Committee Chairman Paul K. Butler.

"We don't have a lot of adults speaking," Butler said prior to the ceremony. "It's the kids' night and we let the kids speak. I'm really excited to hear what they say. It gives us tremendous hope about our future."

Valedictorian Autumn Fetridge reminded the graduates and their families of the challenges they faced when a newly constructed school building opened four years ago.

"In ninth grade, we had a brand new school," she said. "By new, I mean nothing worked and none of the teachers could figure out how to work the fancy-schmancy smart boards."

Fetridge acknowledged that the classmates "are not all besties."

"We have some great memories," she said.

"It's been a long and exhausting four years," Fetridge said in closing "but we have decades to go."

The Hoosac Valley Class of 2016 celebrates after their graduation Friday at Hoosac Valley High School in Cheshire.
The Hoosac Valley Class of 2016 celebrates after their graduation Friday at Hoosac Valley High School in Cheshire. (Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle |

Jared Haley and Danielle Soule delivered a sometimes humorous, sometimes sentimental recounting of the Class of 2016's years at the high school.

Haley will continue his education before the month is over when he starts a new career at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

"I am extremely excited," Haley said prior to accepting his diploma. "I can't just sit and enjoy our freedoms without serving in the military and I've always been excited about the Navy. I knew it was for me."

Salutatorian Marlena Horton noted the changes ahead.

"Every one of us will be striving for our own definition of success," she said. "As we diverge, and this chapter of our lives come to a close, we start the next."

Horton begins studies at Williams College this fall while Fetridge plans to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus.

Courtney Crews said that she plans to attend the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and pursue a career as an occupational therapist.

"My favorite memory is my most influential teacher, Mrs. [Jennifer] McGrath," she said. "She wasn't just a teacher, she was there for me."

Employment is the next step for graduate Courtney McCarron.

"I want to work for a year and then be a model," she said.

Jacob Prudhomme is enrolled at Westfield State College. He recalled a high school band trip to Florida.

"My best memory is the band trip to Disney World," he said. "We stayed for a week and we marched in one of the parades there. It was right down the main street and it was great. There was a big crowd and we played 'Happy.' "

"This one right now, graduation, this is my favorite memory," Clara Shaw said. "I am excited to be graduating.'

Pride is mixed with a tinge of sadness when a child becomes a graduate according to Marla White. White's son Cody White is now a HVHS alum.

"It's emotional, it's a new chapter of life," she said. "When he started kindergarten, we were figuring out when he would graduate and 2016 seemed so far away. It happened so fast."

Tucker Beliveau hopes to pursue a career in three-dimensional animation. His memories will remain with him always, he said.

"I liked meeting new friends," he said. "It was basically creating a new family. My years here were great."