The first ten rows of the Reg Lenna Civic Center were transformed into a mosaic of red and blue mortarboards Friday night as the 2012 senior class of Southwestern Central School celebrated the culmination of their hard work.
The event, much like a commencement ceremony should, saw the faces of 109 young adults filled with elation, euphoria and every other kindred emotion.
The ceremonies began with the Southwestern High School Band performing "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar as a procession of the soon to be graduates made its way to their seats. Kelsey Walbesser provided a welcoming address to the crowd, which was followed by a rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner," once again performed by Southwestern's High School Band.
In a night filled with good advice and hopeful thoughts, salutatorian Claire Webster delivered an address to her soon-to-be former classmates using the historical journey of Christopher Columbus as an allegory for how the path we take in life doesn't always deliver us to the destination we thought it would and how most of the time that's okay anyway.
"From the age of six, we knew that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492," said Webster. "As we grew older, we learned that without Columbus' curiosity in finding an alternate route to India, North America's existence might not have been common knowledge and we might not be here today. Tonight, though, Columbus' voyage means so much more to us, because it parallels our own. While traveling across the ocean, Columbus wrote, 'following the light of the sun, we leave our old world.' Tonight, we leave our old world too. High school is all we've know for the past four years. And though we all have tentative plans for the future, none of us can really be sure of what will happen. Tonight, we are given individual life preservers and cast out into the vast ocean of life, hoping that we can progress to larger boats."
"We can only see as far as the horizon, so we can't always be sure we're going in the right direction. On our voyage to the greater new world, the sun will always be there to guide us. Whenever we feel like we're lost on our way towards accomplishing goals, we will, like Columbus, be able to look to the sun to find our way. Our sun is everything we have learned in the old world of high school, both academically and otherwise. Every test we have taken has led us to today and will impact our future. We have been provided with an education that will help us as we go forward, as well as friendships and memories that will be able to carry with us through the rest of our lives. With the right current and a little luck, we will all be able to reach the new world."
Valedictorian Andrew Blasius delivered an equally poignant address that appealed to the ethos of students and family members alike.
"Excellence is defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good," said Blasius. "It is common to view people as excellent and it is common to view certain parts of an entire structure or organization as excellent. But it is extremely rare that an entire body or organization is referred to as excellent. With that being said, there are a few other words that can accurately describe Southwestern High School's class of 2012 other than simply excellent."
And after the applause for Blasius' address halted, keynote speaker and retired Vice President of Human Resources for Pepsi Beverages Sales and Corporate Function Brian W. Mallory took to the podium to address the soon to be graduates.
"Advice," said Mallory, frankly. "For those that are going to college, what I would say to those is something my father told me. As I had one foot out the door on my way to college he said, 'if you weren't going to college, Brian, you'd be going to work. And if you were going to work, you'd be working 40 hours a week. So, between classwork and studying, if you spend at least that amount of time on your education, it will pay dividends someday that you might never see without that kind of hard work,' and he couldn't have been more right. I encourage you to go to class I mean, after all, you're paying for it so you might as well go, and two, part of the process of being in college and truly being enriched and building those relationships with professors and classmates is simply being there. Finally, make plans. Truly plan out your time. When you get that syllabus at the beginning of the year, take some time to plan how you want your entire semester to unfold. ... The good news is, if you do that, you can (fit in) in plenty of fun in college."
However, with a night full of good tidings and great advice, perhaps the most corporeal advice that was given came compliments of Geralyn Doucette's shoes.
As Doucette was posing for a photograph after receiving her diploma, her shoes, which could have been nothing less than 8-inch heels, gave out and she came crashing to the ground. Yet as soon as she fell, she was right back up on her feet again, waiving to the crowd and laughing the fiasco off.
So, Southwestern's graduating class of 2012, heed the advice of Ms. Doucette's shoes: it's not easy standing tall and sometimes it causes you to come crashing to the ground, but don't let that stop you. Jump right back up and let the world know you've got everything under control.