An academically impressive Class of 2014 has completed its career at Falconer High School.
Falconer held its 66th annual commencement ceremony on Thursday at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts.
The commencement speaker, Keith Martin, is a 1984 graduate of Falconer High School, was the head coach of women's basketball at Jamestown Community College for 13 years and is now the JCC director of athletics. He earned an associate degree at JCC and a bachelor's degree from Eastern Connecticut State University, where he played baseball.
Pictured, at top, Jessie Caprino, valedictorian, speaks during Falconer’s graduation ceremony Thursday. Ellie Walters, salutatorian, as she addresses the crowd during the Falconer High School graduation ceremony Thursday, with her classmates looking on. P-J photos by Daniel Swanson
"Tonight is a very important step," Martin said. "But it's just a snapshot of the many memories you will make."
The keystone of Martin's speech was a story he told about Lefty Gomez, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame who won five World Series with the New York Yankees.
According to Martin, he competed in multiple Division-III College World Series that he was extremely nervous to play in. After recognizing Martin's nervousness, Gomez told him, "Relax, this is just a snapshot. Enjoy the moment."
Martin had the game-winning hit after taking the advice to heart.
"Be the best that you can be in this moment in time," Martin said to the graduates. "What you do will give you life experience ... do them to the best of your abilities."
According to Martin, the best advice he received was from a high school coach, who said, "Surround yourself with good people and good things will happen to you."
"Do this, and I guarantee you'll be successful with time," Martin said. "If you do something you love, the good days will far outweigh the bad days."
Ellie Walters, salutatorian, spoke about the transition from elementary schools to high school to college.
"(In elementary), we were taught that what matters is kindness - to be the nicest one in the room," Walters said. "High school is challenging, but we survived because of the dedicated faculty and teachers guiding us along the way."
Walters added that attending a speech by Kent Knappenberger, Grammy winner from Westfield, empowered her.
"He said that even us small school students can go anywhere we want," Walters said.
Jessie Caprino, valedictorian, thanked her teachers and parents.
"We are about to jump head-first into our futures and make choices," Caprino said. "Everything in life is about the choices we make."
Caprino noted that uncertainty is just another word for opportunity.
"Seize the day knowing you wouldn't change it for the world," Caprino said. "Decisions - both the good and bad - make us who we are."
Stephen Penhollow, superintendent, noted that the students taught the faculty as much as the faculty taught them.
He said that the students were impressive academically - 45 of the 95 graduates completed college credits during their high school careers, some as many as a whole semester worth. Sixteen seniors also achieved a career and technical degree from BOCES, alongside their diplomas.
"Nobody reaches this level of success without the support of family, friends and school staff," Penhollow said. "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."
Under the direction of Ann Marie Mogenhan, the senior choir performed the National Anthem to begin the ceremony.
Jeffrey Jordan, high school principal, applauded the academic efforts of the graduating class and introduced the commencement speaker, Keith Martin.
Before the diplomas were presented, Robert Minton, guidance counselor, presented a variety of awards and scholarships to graduates.