MCLA grads told good job market awaits

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NORTH ADAMS — The 2019 Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts graduates truly have a reason to celebrate.

In addition to putting their last batch of final exams behind them, they'll be starting their job search at an opportune time, their commencement speakers assured them.

"Today's college graduates are entering one of the best job markets in many years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported the unemployment rate for college grads is 3.5 percent," U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal said during the school's 120th commencement on Saturday. "Bottom line, this morning in North Adams is a good time to be a college graduate as you join the workforce."

MCLA students, staff and their families packed into the Amsler Campus Center gymnasium on Saturday to celebrate and bid farewell to the 354 graduates.

Most of the graduates come from Massachusetts and if they intend to remain here, Patricia Marshall of the state Department of Higher Education is optimistic about their chances of finding a job.

"The Massachusetts economy is really humming along," she said in her commencement greeting. "Whether you are continuing your education or entering the job market, you are doing so at a time when your skills and talent are very much in demand."

But while many students may know what they want and be ready and anxious to jump into the career of their dreams right away, others may still be figuring it out. That's OK too, graduate Allison Thienel told her classmates in her commencement speech.

"Since I was 10 years old, storytelling was everything to me, whether expressed through film or writing. I sincerely hope you all find your everything," she told the Class of 2019. "Whether you know it now or are still searching, still unearthing what you'd like to do, life is too short to do anything but."

Thienel, of Oyster Bay, NY, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and will return to her home state to write a novel.

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She urged her peers to jump headfirst into their passion and not to let their fear of failure or the discouraging words of others stop them from moving forward.

"There are lessons in both good and bad because through every experience you're one step closer to reaching your goals." she said. "Every step is worth it. Never let anyone convince you your not going anywhere just because you haven't gotten there yet. Your time will come. You'll find your everything."

Neal, who was raised in Springfield and now serves as the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, has grabbed national headlines for recently issuing subpoenas for President Donald Trump's tax returns.

On Saturday, he shared a bit about his "steep" climb from his college graduation to the prestigious place in national politics he now holds.

"I wasn't born to be the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. I commuted to college. I was raised by an aunt and a grandmother. It was the genius of Mr. Roosevelt's Social Security initiative that allowed us to live," he said. "But opportunity beckoned."

The congressman spoke to graduates about the difference between hearing and listening, the importance of facts, and urged them to step outside their own echo-chambers when consuming news.

"Generationally, I hope we're all still united by the embrace of complete sentences, finished paragraphs, an adoration of the Oxford comma. And please graduates, don't let verbs become adjectives," he said. "Continue to think critically because the facts still count and they should not be viewed as trimmings around a clever argument or mere decorations of animated discourse."

Today, it's easy to surround yourself with perspectives similar to you own, but Neal said it's more productive to engage with information and people who don't share your opinion.

"Bias thoughts beginning an argument don't benefit anyone, instead they contribute to the toxic environment that breeds misinformation, anger, paranoia and stifles dialogue," he said. "Refusing to be open to different opinions is a slippery slope toward, I think, dismantling the First Amendment. Many people like free speech, but only if it agrees with their perspective."

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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