HADLEY — Observing that she and her 14 fellow graduates are fluent in both English and Chinese, Talia O’Shea said she expects them to have a voice in a world where half the people speak those languages.
“I have faith that everyone sitting here can do great things, whatever that means to you,” O’Shea said during her senior address at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School’s third commencement ceremony Friday.
Fellow senior Sungho Moon echoed this thought in his senior address, telling his classmates to bridge communities and cultures and bring positive impact to people around them.
“Our class has learned so much from each other, and everyone else has been so generous with their experience,” Moon said.
Principal Kathleen Wang said what the graduates have accomplished in both Chinese and English, and their ability to communicate in the languages, will improve friendships everywhere they go.
Wang observed that the Class of 2019 was the first with students who started their Chinese education in elementary school, though the graduates arrived at various times over the past 12 years.
The ceremony, attended by parents, families, fellow students and alumni, was the school’s first with a guest speaker, with U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern briefly talking about the gift of bilingualism.
“You have a gift that, quite frankly, most people in this country don’t have — you can speak another language,” McGovern said.
McGovern said he is confident the graduates will be advocates for social justice in the United States, promote human rights across the globe and work toward solutions to climate change. “All 15 of you can make a world’s of difference,” McGovern said.
Prior to the graduation exercises, seniors praised the school’s focus on getting them to become fluent Chinese speakers and learn Chinese customs and etiquette.
“I’ve been told by people in China that I speak like a native speaker,” said Shane Campbell, of Hadley, who has been at the school since first grade and will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Anna Stanforth of Amherst, who will head to McGill University in Canada to pursue a degree in psychology and Spanish, said she has made close relationships with students and appreciated the experienced language teachers. “The opportunity to learn Chinese has been so useful,” Stanforth said.
“I will miss the international mindedness that is instilled in all students that has helped us look at the world in a different way,” said Benedikt Nuesslein of Amherst, who will be going to the University of Massachusetts to study biology.
Eric Alcorn of Amherst, whose parents Wang and Executive Director Richard Alcorn, who co-founded the school, said he had “an incredible experience learning Chinese and being exposed to a world that I hadn’t been exposed to” that will prepare him for the Naval Academy.
Jayden Addison and Giancarlo “Gabe” Crivelli, both of Springfield, said they are glad their families learned about the opportunity to enroll at the school.
Addison said he will go to Western New England University to study electrical engineering.
“It’s been a great experience. I had a lot of fun,” said Crivelli, who will study international business and finance at UMass.
At the end of the ceremony, the graduates presented roses to people who touched their lives and formally thanked several teachers.