McCann grads celebrate new pathways

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NORTH ADAMS — To principal Justin Kratz, Thursday night's commencement ceremony was a quintessential McCann Tech production.

Amid the laundry list of thank yous he doled out from the podium on McCann's football field were all those who had a hand in making the delayed graduation day a reality for the Class of 2020.

"What you see here tonight is not easily pulled off. You sit here, you've got dirt bikes going on, Mount Greylock over there," he said. "I don't think there are many graduates who can say they've graduated listening to dirt bike races and underneath the state's tallest peak. It's absolutely awesome to be able to get all of you here. It's really exciting."

Graduation for the Hornets is typically held up the street at MCLA in the spring, but amidst the pandemic the school called upon all of its faculty and faculties to pivot back on campus in early August. That included countless seating layout options created in the school's Computer Assisted Design program by co-op counselor Tom Tinney, a series of 'M' masks were produced and worn by each graduate, hours of work was spent setting up in the wake of Tuesday's storm by the facilities department, and almost a thousand yards of Ethernet cable ran out from the school building to roll the webcast with the aid of Information Technology instructor Rick Bergendahl.

In his closing message to the class, Kratz asked his students to keep things in perspective.

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"I do believe, that if you try to consider other people's perspectives in situations, you'll find that these situations in life are going to be a little bit easier for you to navigate," he said. "When you find yourself in difficult situations, try to think — in this new normal — that it's all about perspective."

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In line with that message, school committee chair Gary Rivers praised the class, teachers and administrators for their flexibility. Rivers took the microphone after a speech from Salutatorian Emma Carpenter, of the Computer Assisted Design program.

"Needless to say, this school year was extremely difficult for everyone. Literally overnight, you were asked to change your learning style. You had to forego all your traditional senior activities. It wasn't easy, but you guys did it," Rivers said. "There is a silver lining somewhere in all of this for you as graduates. In life, at work or in school, it has helped you become more flexible as a person and a learner. Whether you are entering the workforce, military or higher education, flexibility will be critical."

Perhaps no student was more flexible than valedictorian Vanessa Harrington, who said she scrapped the COVID-centric speech she wrote months ago just two days prior. Instead of focusing on the virus that upended and stole her senior spring, Harrington, who graduates from the IT program, urged her fellow graduates to look forward.

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"Our time at McCann was exceptional, but we must walk away from the familiar," she said. "It may sound scary that our path is about to split 117 different ways, but the best part about starting the next chapter in each of our lives is we get to write how this one goes. To all my fellow classmates, go find your path and I wish you the best."

McCann Tech listed 116 graduates across nine programs. The IT department featured 17 graduates, with 15 each in CAD and Business Technology, 14 Advanced Manufacturing, 13 each from Carpentry and Electricity, 12 from Metal Fabrication, 11 from Automotive and six from the Culinary Arts.

Retiring instructor Gary Wood was recognized as well, after spending the last 31 years in the Advanced Manufacturing department at the school.

Mike Walsh can be reached at


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