Fredonia High School's 81st commencement had all the necessary Pomp and Circumstance Sunday. There were 101 graduates who crossed the stage at King Concert Hall at SUNY Fredonia.
Commencement had the requisite speeches and awards. However, the ceremony exceeded expectations. It had elements of music, comedy, philosophical reflection and science.
Graduate Deanna Civilette welcomed those attending the ceremony and gave them "a gift of a short speech."
The Madrigal Singers, under the direction of Ryan Kaminski, sang a stunningly harmonious arrangement of the National Anthem.
Salutatorian Michael Hawk brought laughter to King Concert Hall as he began his address.
"Now people who know me know that I am not one to make speeches. I'm not one to put myself out there - to perform. Let's just say I am not one for attention. But in all seriousness, I would like to let you know what an honor it is to stand before you as valedictorian," he said.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
Pictured from left, Sean Pecuch and Andrew Riforgiat show their diplomas to their friends and family after Fredonia High School’s graduation ceremony on Sunday.
There was a slight break and a whispered conversation. Then Hawk came back to the microphone and slowly said, "Well I would like to let you know what an honor it is to stand before you as salutatorian."
Hawk's speech then truly turned serious. It dealt with the success, the obstacles to success, and the ways to overcome obstacles.
He reflected on what he had learned from spending time in Miss Tomaszewski's special education class.
"These students are some of the kindest, funniest, warmhearted people that I have ever met or I may ever meet in my life."
Hawk closed with a quote by Abraham Lincoln, "Children are the message we send to a future we will never see."
"So let us all make a successful future," Hawk said.
An aspiring musical performance major, Hawk later employed his strong baritone to sing "The Impossible Dream" from the musical "The Man of LaMancha."
Erin Jones played a saxophone selection.
Valedictorian Noah Rankin reflected that everyone in the class of 2012, put in time learning things that may not seem immediately useful.
"Every one of you is educated; everyone of you is well-rounded," he said.
"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake," Rankin quoted Francis Bacon.
"Stuff happens to everyone but those here today mastered the required material - or 65 percent of it."
"Don't be a bystander and don't be intimidated by difficulty," he counseled his classmates.
Key note speaker, Dr. Seth Aldrich Ph.D. and a licensed Bilingual School Psychologist from the Fredonia Class of 1977.
"I hadn't found my niche," he said reflecting on his graduation 35 years ago.
Aldrich explained he had just returned from 10 months in Mexico as a Rotary Exchange student and was readjusting. He credited his eleventh grade English teacher Mrs. Christina, "who didn't have a first name then" with challenging him to move out of his comfort zone.
"(Mrs. Christina) once referred to many youth in Fredonia as living in a protective bubble having no sense of the world," he said.
Aldrich asked her if that applied to him. While he doesn't remember the exact words, "She let me know that I had a long way to go."
"As you move out of your nests, good luck. If you play it too safe you won't open yourself to new experience," Aldrich said addressing the graduates.
Aldrich spent his four minutes describing elements of the science of happiness. He pointed out three elements: pleasure, engagement, and meaningfulness. He also stressed the role of thankfulness.
"Find a peer, family member or teacher and thank them for the positive or meaningful impact they've had on your life," he added.
"May you engage in meaningful things, find your niche and recognize happiness," he concluded.
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