It is a magnificent late spring afternoon at Tanglewood in the Berkshire hills. The sky is heartbreakingly blue and a gentle breeze wafts a heady mixture of fragrance from the blooms of lilacs, peonies, and irises through the air. The temperature is a perfect 72 degrees. The ancient oak and ash trees are resplendent with their fresh translucent leaves filtering the sunlight and giving the day a surreal greenish tint.
The spring songbirds have returned and are flitting in and out of the field of vision filling the air with their unique but not unfamiliar sounds. From the immaculately manicured lawns of Tanglewood one can look southward through the 200 year-old white pines and see the Stockbridge Bowl replete with colorful sails and in the distance lies Monument Mountain, Butternut Mountain and the rest of the impossibly green Berkshires stretching out as far as the eye can see. The promise of spring and the marvel of the Berkshires—unlike anywhere else on earth—leave the observer in awe.
This splendor is the setting for the annual commencement exercises of Berkshire Community College. The graduates in their gowns each wearing a mortar board with a tassel are gathering in groups according to their fields of study. The faculty and staff of the college are wearing the academic heraldry that has its beginnings in medieval times—each color cloak, hood, and cap distinguishing faculties and degrees of learning.
The parents, families and friends of the graduates arrive dressed in spring finery. Everywhere, an excited, animated chatter is pervasive. Congratulatory hand shaking, hugs, and kisses, shrieks of joy, beaming smiles, last minute tie straightening and make up adjustments, camera flashes, and bittersweet tears are all around. Then over the public address system come the sounds of Handel’s Water Music as the audience rushes for their seats and the faculty and graduates hurry to their places.
Marching in from the back of the open air shed the Berkshire Highlanders, lead the processional, their bag pipes droning while their fingers play eerie melodies on the chanter. Then come the graduates; some appear happy, laughing and relaxed; some walk by with furrowed brows and pinch lipped tension. All reflect an image of someone who is ending one chapter of life and is about to begin another.
After several minutes everyone is seated, then standing again for an acappella version of the national anthem. Finally, everyone is seated and the eagerly anticipated speeches begin. The audience is riveted by brilliant dialog from dignitaries from the board of trustees, by the mayor of Pittsfield, by the Massachusetts state representative, by the valedictorian, by the president of the college, and at last by the commencement speaker. Even though the audience wants to hear more speeches about Oh, the Places You’ll Go! they realize that the moment we’ve all been waiting for is at hand—the awarding of diplomas and certificates.
The College Internship Program (CIP) has five students receiving diplomas today (last year we had four). Meryl K. is being awarded her Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts; Christina Tenore is getting her Intermediate Certificate in Early Childhood Education, while Stevanne D., Jane M., and Lindsay T. are being awarded their Introductory Certificate in Early Childhood Education.
This is a particularly significant and rewarding experience for CIP faculty and staff. To see these young people walking across the stage to receive their diplomas is the culmination of our efforts. These young people have been training do something and they now have the earned the credentials to work in their chosen fields. Each of them will move on to jobs, more schooling, and independent living. Each of them is a success story who has overcome the obstacles of a learning difference.
Now it’s time for us to get back to work to propel next year’s graduates along. Liz will need intense tutoring to get through her algebra and lit classes. Zach will need extra encouragement to write the papers for his honors comp class. Stevanne and Jane and Jen will be moving toward their intermediate certificates, while this year’s Early Childhood Education students will be striving for their introductory certificates. Eric and Ben are on course for their culinary certificates. The arriving freshmen need to be assessed and the cycle begins anew. Oh the places they’ll go!