SINCLAIRVILLE - High school graduation usually gets characterized as either the beginning or end of a fantastic life journey.
Cassadaga Valley Central School Class of 2012 valedictorian Stephen Seibert split the difference Friday evening at the CVCS commencement ceremony when he summed up graduation as neither the beginning nor the end, but rather an exciting event along the way for the 96 graduates.
As parents, family and friends found their seats prior to the "exciting event," they were treated to a slideshow featuring everything from baby pictures to prom photos of the Class of 2012. Many of the more embarrassing photos elicited laughs while there were plenty of sentimental shots as well.
OBSERVER Photo by Stefan Gestwicki
Members of the Cassadaga Valley Central School Class of 2012 celebrate their graduation, Friday evening. From left to right, Derek Wise, Mike Lanphere, Steve Seibert and Ben Torres.
An emotional Jud Foy, high school principal, opened the ceremony by highlighting the achievements of this year's graduating class. He noted the 19 students who have already logged between 30-33 college credit hours, the 20 members of the National Honor Society, the band's trip to Washington, D.C. this school year and the pair of students who took fourth place at the National Automotive Competition, among others.
Salutatorian Thomas Wissman stepped up to the podium to highlight the journey this class has taken. He played off the famous Winston Churchhill quote, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" and recited a touching poem entitled "Graduation Isn't Gradual."
The keynote speaker for the evening was Seth Kennedy, a CVCS Class of 1987 graduate and currently a second-grade teacher in the Rochester area.
He gave this year's class a little gift he called "short and sweet."
Kennedy congratulated the students for their accomplishments and gave them some advice with help from a famous author he simply called "Teddy G."
- "Don't cry because it's over, be happy that it happened at all."
- "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. Steer yourself in any direction you choose." and
- "Be who you are. Say what you feel. Those people who mind, don't matter and those that matter really won't mind."
These were some of the inspirational quotes Kennedy used from "Teddy G." - who of course is Theodore Geisel, better known as Doctor Seuss.
The class song, Stephen Schwartz's "For Good" was performed beautifully by the duet of Sierra Cuellar and Rebekah Bender.
Following the moving performance, Class President Brittany Opacinch announced the Class of 2012's gifts to CVCS. The gifts include a mural, the start of a fund to purchase a new school sign and donations to numerous scholarship funds.
Superintendent Scott Smith gratefully accepted the gifts and challenged the students to continue their selflessness. He urged them to remember their classmates, continue to care about where you came from and always keep giving.
The final speaker was Seibert, who admittedly wanted to talk of determination and perseverance, but didn't want to "put the audience to sleep." So instead, the valedictorian spoke of individuality, which he noted was odd, being "dressed exactly like 98 of his classmates."
Seibert also issued a challenge to his peers. He dared his classmates to live their lives, to learn from their mistakes and to never feel pressured to be someone they're not.
At one point in Kennedy's speech, he had the graduates stand and give their parents, family and friends a round of applause to thank them for the sacrifices they've made. That applause was returned ten-fold after the newly graduated students received their diplomas and, as a group, moved their tassels from right to left.
The 96 young adults will now go their separate ways. Some will go to college, others will join the work force while still others will enlist in the armed forces, but they will always be united as the CVCS Class of 2012.
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