PITTSFIELD — When Maine Central Institute alumna and board of trustees member Beth Staples was asked last minute to give the school’s commencement address, she was surprised by the opportunity.

Staples, who works as a news writer at the University of Maine, said she has had many failures in life — barely passing any math classes she ever took, choking in a big tournament basketball game, not getting interviews for jobs she wanted and then getting a dream job and “bombing spectacularly.”

Those aren’t the typical attributes of a graduation speaker, whose job it is to impart advice and the keys to success, but Staples said she’s taken her failures as learning opportunities.

They’ve also reminded her to be grateful for the education and support she received while a student at MCI.

On Sunday, Staples, who was asked to step in last minute when the school’s planned graduation speaker was unable to attend, shared her gratitude and some life lessons with the 111 graduates of the class of 2018 on Boutelle Savage Lawn during the school’s 149th Commencement Exercises.

She said she watched a lot of commencement addresses as she prepared for the speech. Among the most memorable was a recent address given by U.S. soccer star and Olympian Abby Wambach, who told graduates at Barnard College to “make failure your fuel.”

“If you get knocked down or stumble, I encourage you to show the diligence, character and determination to get up and follow your dreams,” Staples said. “Failure really can be a gift and I hope you learn from it and embrace it.”

Staples also referenced children’s television personality Mr. Rogers, who in a 2002 commencement address at Dartmouth College said, “The Earth hangs in the vastness of space like a magnificent jewel and we are all a part of that jewel.”

“He reminded them they don’t have to do anything flashy or anything sensational for people to love them, because people already did love them,” Staples said. “So as you go forward today, consider thanking those who already love you and have helped you be here today. My wish for you is that you stay true to yourselves, pursue your passion and make this magnificent jewel a healthier, safer and more just place one person at a time.”

As an independent residential school, MCI has a mission that includes a dedication to diversity and trying to bring students from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds to its campus.

The class of 2018 includes students from 12 towns in Maine, three states and a dozen countries, including Spain, China, the Czech Republic, Rwanda and Japan.

Headmaster Christopher Hopkins said the graduates have lived up to their class theme — integrity — which they have demonstrated both individually and as a group. He also encouraged the students to thank their teachers, saying they likely won’t realize the profound impact faculty have had on them until years later.

Valedictorian Elspeth Irene Taylor also addressed the audience and her classmates Sunday, naming a number of achievements and contributions the class of 2018 has made in athletics, academics and the arts.

“We entered MCI to grow, and we have furthered the school just as much as it has furthered us,” Taylor said. “Although we are saying goodbye to MCI, I challenge you to keep your drive and passion, to shape your college or future community as positively as you have MCI. If at first you succeed, try something harder and make new paths for others to follow. Life is a work in progress and we will only get out of it what we put into it.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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