COLTON - Daniel Knight looked at his 20 fellow classmates from the Colton-Pierrepont Central School District Class of 2012, young men and women he had grown up with.
One by one, he listed gifts of his classmates in his senior speech at Friday nights graduation ceremony. He will never forget Brianna Beaulieus interesting questions in economics class, discussions with Tara Hennessy in AP Biology about cute and ugly animals, or how he and Cameron Dumas used to compare their drawings of monsters during elementary school lunch (Mr. Dumas were always better.)
Tim Rapczynzki will be solving the worlds environmental problems in future years, Ryan Watson may be some sort of computer genius, and Shayla Williams will never stop learning and seeking knowledge, he said.
Having a small class, everyone becomes more than acquaintances, he said. There are few schools in which the students can honestly say that they know everyone in their grade, the grade above and the grade below. No class or group of people in Colton is exclusive, allowing for everyone to have a diverse group of friends ... Everyone here treats everyone like a person, student and teacher alike.
I hope that no one sitting on this stage forgets their hometown, and that you always use your experiences at our tiny school as an icebreaker when talking to new people, he said.
That sense of small-town togetherness surfaced at several points during Friday nights ceremony. The graduates parents organized a slideshow of baby and child pictures, shown in the middle of the ceremony. The jazz band and vocal jazz ensemble each performed, and when they did, the graduates who had been involved with those groups walked away from their spot on the stage and joined them.
Superintendent Joe Kardash and high school Principal Randy Johnson praised the group for their accomplishments and wished them well, whether they were headed for college, the working world or military service.
Both salutatorian Erick Muller and Ms. Williams, the valedictorian, defined the meaning of success in their respective speeches. Mr. Muller saw success in the classmates he had grown to know so well.
Looking at my classmates, I see among them the foundation for a happy life, he said. They are courageous, imaginative, confident, determined, motivated and hard-working. They have overcome failure. They have demonstrated a willingness to learn and to use that knowledge in pursuit of their goals. They are the picture of success.
Ms. Williams urged her fellow classmates to seek contentment, a sense of satisfaction as they grow older of a life well-lived.
Happiness is a momentary thing, like biting into a delicious piece of graduation cake, she said. But contentment is deeper, like the realization that youre eating that cake because youve completed 14 years of education.
The class of 2012 could find this source of contentment from a job or elsewhere in life, she said.
If you can volunteer, or raise a beautiful family, or learn how to make banjos, or start a knitting club, or a dirt biking club, or really anything that brings you joy, do it. Because, truth be told, its hard to find joy in a job well done if you dont care about what that job was in the first place, she said.
So please, make sure that you care about what you do and the people youre with. Make sure that you discover your own strengths and that you work hard. And most of all make sure you live your life to be content and for no other reason.