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NORTH ADAMS -- Jessica Sue-Ann Lesure issued a challenge to the 103 graduates of McCann Technical School on Wednesday night.

"My challenge is to expand on yourself, as you've already expanded on the foundation of who you are," Lesure, the class of 2014's salutatorian, told her fellow classmates.


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"After tonight, your job is to find what makes you happy, what makes you ‘you', and what will help you create your life dream."

During the commencement ceremony at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Amsler Center Campus Gym, Lesure acknowledged many students have "bittersweet" feelings over leaving the school.

But, quoting entrepreneur and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, she said, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. ... And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

"Starting today, our lives are our own responsibilities," she continued, "and we are in charge of our own future, own freedom and own destiny."

The hourlong ceremony included a rendition of the national anthem by Breeana Lexus Rodriguez and was topped off with a slideshow presentation of students' photos.

School Committee Chairman Thomas R. Mahar wished the students well on their future -- three-quarters are going on to further their education, four will enter the military, and others will enter the workforce.

"These graduates will leave McCann tonight with an education that will serve them well into the future," he said. "They will also be more mature, more knowledgeable, and just a bit older and wiser."

"The key thing to remember is perseverance," James J. Brosnan, superintendent, told students -- referring to their perseverance as students, that of their parents who encouraged them through their academic career, and of faculty and staff who stayed with students throughout their time at the school.

Following the awarding of diplomas, valedictorian Makenna Lindsey Arnold had departing words for her fellow students.

"The next phase of our lives may be a challenge, but certainly something we all have the ability to overcome," she said.

She also told students not to be worried of the whirlwind of changes and choices they will face following graduation.

"Now it is our turn to step past the boundaries of comfort and enter the real world," she said. "I encourage you to break free from what you are used to and take risks, because comfort is not the key to success. Real life begins tomorrow morning, after the celebrations of tonight."

To reach Edward Damon:
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