SINCLAIRVILLE - Cassadaga Valley Central School conducted its 74th Commencement and graduated the 85-student Class of 2013 Friday at the J. Arthur France Auditorium.
According to first-year high school principal Tara DiDomenico, 51 of those students combined to earn over $67,000 in scholarships and awards.
"This is an impressive amount and we should be very proud of each and every one of them," DiDomenico said. "I know you're prepared for whatever challenge you choose, whether that's college, trade school, going into the military. My wish for you is that your future be everything that you hope for."
OBSERVER Photo by Lisa Monacelli
Cassadaga Valley seniors Jessica Burch, Brianna Byler, Ashley Carroll and Kelcie Brown behind the scenes right before the start of graduation.
Some of the graduates echoed DiDomenico's sentiments before the ceremony.
"I've been waiting for this night for what seems like forever and now that it's here I think I'm going to miss it," Jordan Boughton said. "I can't wait to see my friends and everyone succeed in life and have fun."
"It feels pretty good," Ryan Berg said. "Glad everyone gets to graduate with us and it should be a good night."
Others, however, were a little less restrained in their thoughts.
"Can't wait to get out of here," Rebecca Keach said.
Colin Perry, the SUNY Fredonia-bound salutatorian, kept things light in his address and asked those in attendance to refer to him as "Person Who Had the Most Right Answers the Most Times, Almost."
"That's what it is," Perry said. "I'm neither older nor wiser than my classmates so I don't have a single notable thing to talk about.
"In February, when I received the honor of Person Who Had the Most Right Answers The Most Times, Almost, people gave me handshakes, pats on the back," Perry continued. "One teacher here at Cassadaga gave me a piece of advice: 'You know, nobody remembers second.' The good thing is nobody will remember you horrifically crashing and burning so you have the luxury to screw up all you want."
Ken Lawton, a 1988 Cassadaga Valley graduate who currently serves as an energy consultant for National Fuel and a town of Busti councilman, served as the event's speaker and used his address to answer critics who believe the current generation - known in some circles as "millennials" - is entitled and communicates better with digital devices.
"You're so new and so current that my AutoCorrect doesn't even know what millennial is," Lawton said. "(Generation-Xers) used a PC. You use the Internet. We, the Gen-Xers, accept diversity and the millennials embrace diversity. Gen-Xers rejected rules and millennials rewrite the rules. We thought about betterment and millennials think about betterness. Gen-Xers tend to be individual workers, millennials tend to be team workers.
"These are all really great compliments but don't let your ego become too inflated," Lawton continued. "Generations before you were great as well. You're really standing on broad shoulders."
The strongest reaction from the standing room-only crowd at the auditorium came from valedictorian Emily Masiker's address in which she discussed her decision to not pursue a college education.
"A lot of you have told me that I have to go to college, that I've done too well academically to not go to college," Masiker said. "School isn't the only place you can learn. I love learning new things and I never want to stop but I don't think any type of degree will make me a happier or better person 50 years from now.
"I don't want to tell any of you that you should or shouldn't do anything," Masiker continued. "I just want you to be honest with yourselves. I hope you all do well in what you work at. There's no shame in a blue-collar job. There's only shame in doing nothing."
There were several tributes to popular English teacher Brian Ranney who died of a rare liver and lung disorder in 2009. Students sported multi-colored tassels while both Perry and Superintendent Scott Smith honored him in their speeches.
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