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LENOX — American author Ernest Hemingway often based his novels and short stories on his global travels and personal experiences.

The four years the Class of 2016 spent at Lee Middle and High School were the latest chapters of an unfinished book that will be completed with the 56 graduates living life to the fullest.


The three senior speakers collectively conveyed that message Saturday afternoon during Lee's 139th commencement in The Shed at Tanglewood.

Senior class speaker Samuel Polastri likened high school to 720 pages of a novel the same number of days spent in the classrooms on the Greylock Street campus from the first day as a freshman to the final senior exam.

Polastri found junior year the most challenging, what with learning how to drive, deciding what college — if any — is worth attending and taking the required chemistry course.

"I remember having to write down every single question and statement for every lab," he said. "It got old, but that was just preparing us for the real world."

Valedictorian Emily Donovan reminded her classmates the next chapters in their lives will likely be harder and more rewarding to pen.

"So this is my message to all of you today: Lose sleep, take those chances, do memorable things that will stay with you forever and let go of the unimportant things," she said. "Go into the world full of endless opportunities and create your own luck, because luck is the result of skillful preparation."

Venturing beyond high school requires the courage to discover more about oneself that will bring happiness, according to salutatorian Cayce Williams.

After being announced as graduates and receiving their diplomas, some members of the Lee High School Class of 2016 are a bit more excited than others on
After being announced as graduates and receiving their diplomas, some members of the Lee High School Class of 2016 are a bit more excited than others on the stage Saturday at Tanglewood in Lenox. (Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle |

Williams called on Lee's newest alumni to learn another language, travel to unfamiliar places, saying it's time to break away from the comfort and familiarity of the local high school.

"Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover," she said, quoting American author Mark Twain.

Principal Gregg Brighenti urged the graduates as they leave the sheltered walls and halls of Lee Middle and High School to gaze at the stars, visit a big city to people watch and do as much community service as possible.

"No matter what you do, experience life — don't be a spectator," he said.

While the fond memories of high school are to be cherished, don't fret the disappointments or failures, Donovan added.

"Regret nothing, it's a waste of your time," she said. "Learn from mistakes and forgive yourself move on and live your life."

The graduates dedicated their ceremony to the late Henry T. Zukowksi, who died in October. He spent 52 years as a coach, teacher and administrator at Lee High and as the superintendent of Lee Public Schools.

Zukowski was key in Lee High holding its first commencement at Tanglewood 44 years ago, starting a tradition of several other Berkshire high schools and Berkshire Community College staging their graduations at the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.