"Pics, or it didn't happen."
So, that is how Fredonia High School Class of 2014 Valedictorian Emily Wan celebrated Sunday at the end of her speech during the 83rd commencement ceremony for her school (now alma mater), by taking her cellphone out and snapping a video selfie with her fellow classmates yelling, "We are the Class of 2014!"
A total of 118 students marked an end to their high school careers in SUNY Fredonia's King Concert Hall. Proud parents, friends and faculty packed the seats to witness the seniors reach this important milestone in their lives.
Members of the Fredonia High School Class of 2014 celebrate the end to their high school careers by throwing their caps into the air. The 83rd commencement ceremony took place Sunday in King Concert Hall.
OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox
From left, Ryan Meredith, Jacinda Mekus and Colleen McCormick pose for a picture as they wait in line to receive their diplomas.
Senior Student Council Vice President Abigail Krzyzanowicz said she asked some of her fellow classmates what graduating meant to them.
"For some, it was an intimidating idea of change, some a reawakening, for others a new beginning, being ready for the real world or opening the door to new things," she said. "I want to look at graduation as the start of a new chapter in our lives. I hope that when all the excitement of graduation is over, you can take a moment to remember those people, memories and lessons that we learned."
Wan gave the audience a candid trip down memory lane, which included freshman year fads, sophomore year lessons on how to not solve math problems, junior year sleeplessness from being in multiple extracurricular activities and, finally, senior year.
"Senioritis is not a myth," she reminisced. "That was our last musical. Oh my goodness, that was our last cross-country meet. That was our last track meet. Our last New York state regents. Still hasn't hit that we're graduating, but wait, we're getting our cap and gown now. It's always scary to think about the future and what's to come, but over the years, I've learned to look to the memories that make you happy."
Nationally recognized composer, Broadway musical director and pianist Donald Rebic, Class of '69, delivered some thought-provoking advice to the young adults.
"People will line up to take credit for something that's good, but you rarely hear someone say they made a mistake," he said. "Don't be afraid to admit that you're wrong and don't be afraid to make mistakes. I truly believe it's a time of taking responsibility for your actions."
Rebic added it is important to have a passion for whatever it is a person decides to do in life.
High School Principal Todd Crandall had his own parting words for the class, too.
"Each of you are special in many ways," he said. "Over the years, I've heard that successful people are blessed with good fortune. But, at crucial and difficult moments in life, these successful people have acted on their own individual will to succeed."
One seat stood vacant where the graduates sat, reserved for a student who sadly could never make it there, Nathan Polisoto. Polisoto, 14, passed away Aug. 8, 2010 due to a drowning accident.
With a standing ovation from the audience, Nathan's mother Diane accepted an honorary diploma dedicated to him. Diane also announced the recipients of a memorial scholarship in honor of Nathan: Dustin Wickmark and Esther Cobb.
As part of the ceremony, three musical acts by graduating seniors were performed, including Michaela Tramuta singing "Come Down From the Tree" by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, Alexander Dimitri playing the marimba and Devin Kowalewski and Wan performing on violins.
At the end of the ceremony, Senior Student Council President Nathaniel Schrauth delivered farewell remarks that expanded on the phrase, "Reach for the stars," making it a little less cliche than it sounds.
"You can stretch your arms as high as you'd like ... but you will never reach a star," he said. "Instead, don't strain yourself with the reach; take hold of the things you want and can have, and use them to pull yourself up."
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