GOWANDA - When one door closes, another opens.
On Friday, the Gowanda Central School Class of 2014 closed the door on its high school career and opened another into its future.
"I know a lot of us get restless in Gowanda, but this town is full of people with big hearts," said valedictorian Jessica Sowa.
OBSERVER Photo by Jeremy Izzio
Gowanda students celebrate graduation while on Hillis Field Friday night.
OBSERVER Photos by Jeremy Izzio
Women wore white while the men wore blue Friday night.
OBSERVER Photo by Jeremy Izzio
Valedictorian Jessica Sowa receives her diploma and shakes hands with High School Principal Robert B. Anderson on Friday during Gowanda Central School's 130th Commencement Exercise.
Sowa, whose mother passed away during the school year, found a new appreciation for the school and town she grew up in when both rallied around her and her family in their time of need.
"The outpouring of love and support that came into my house from the community was astonishing," Sowa continued. "When I finally went back to school, I found out that the lunch ladies all had contributed to my lunch account. We would go to dinner at a local restaurant and an anonymous person would pay for our meal. Living in this small town, everyone really does know everyone and we really do care about each other."
That sense of community was apparent Friday as family members, friends and members of the community packed the bleachers of the football field beyond capacity to watch Gowanda Central School's 130th Commencement Exercise.
The Class of 2014 consisted of 102 graduates, including valedictorian Sowa and salutatorian Delaney Van Wey.
"As we all know by now, we have come to a tremendous turning point in our lives," Van Wey said. "To the end of a chapter that is closing, but will never be forgotten. ... There is an endless amount of uncharted territory in front of us and we must navigate much of it on our own. We will fall down, get back up, and fall back down again. But we must always keep going."
Following the speeches by Sowa and Van Wey, guest speaker and retiring Superintendent of Schools Charles J. Rinaldi took the podium to give the Class of 2014 congratulations and words of encouragement.
"Ever since Dr. (Robert) Anderson (high school principal) asked me to give the commencement address, I began to get concerned over what I would say," Rinaldi said. "I wrote my notes and got more nervous as time went by... and then it dawned on me. Like most things good and pure, the truth laid right at my feet. ... So where did I find the words of wisdom I am going to impart on you today? In the thoughts and words of the Class of 2014."
Rinaldi went on to read quotes from the graduating class, which he found in the 2013-14 yearbook.
Those quotes all had one thing in common: they spoke of a new beginning and a future where anything is possible.
The Class of 2014 then turned its tassels, threw their graduation caps in the air and hugged each other one last time before walking out the door and into their future.
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