BRASHER FALLS - Some will study in the dental field. Others are heading for a career in X-ray technology. One is becoming a veterinarian, and another is jumping into the world of marine biology research. A few are joining the military, while one has been accepted to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
With their diplomas tucked under their arms, many of the 87 students who now call themselves St. Lawrence Central School graduates all share a common theme, the class salutatorian told his classmates during Friday night’s commencement ceremonies.
“For the most part, these careers are all about helping others, which is one of the heroic values this class possesses,” Shane Fuentes said.
Mr. Fuentes was one of 90 people that was accepted into the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Nazareth College. He said Abby Taylor and Macy Fountain were two of only 30 students accepted into the X-ray technologist program at North Country Community College. Jessica McCarthy was one of only 12 people accepted into the SUNY Canton Dental Hygienist program.
“We have multiple students pursuing careers in social work, environmental conservation and law enforcement,” Mr. Fuentes said. “We have quite a few students going into the military. These students are definitely the truest heroes and heroines of this class - Matt Frary, Makenzie Reif, Devon Agen, Tyler Losey, David Plante, Thomas Mattison, Kaitlin Jock. Thank you guy for committing to serve.” he said, drawing a round of applause from the crowd filling the school’s front lawn on an evening with blue skies and temperatures hovering in the low 80s.
Other students plan to directly enter the work force now that they’re officially graduates.
“I’m sure at our 10-year reunion they’ll be cracking jokes about how those of us who went to college are now 100K in debt, while they’re looking at new trucks,” Mr. Fuentes said.
No matter what direction they head, he said, it was up to the “future heroes and heroines to spread the community feeling of St. Lawrence Central to where ever they decide to go, whether it is to Boston, Florida, Alabama, California or New York City.
“And if they decide to spend the remainder of their life in the area, it is their duty to continue to practice the virtues St. Lawrence Central has taught them, and set a strong precedent for the next classes so that future heroes have a template to follow,” Mr. Fuentes said.
He said the students have benefitted from having the support of the community. “At times the media may bring attention to the perceived improvements that we need to make academically. However anyone who has spent time in the halls of SLC knows that we are on the right track. I will be the first to say that ranking is not indicative of the students at SLC. This community of seniors has been unbelievably successful. Regardless of the lack of resources this school has been dealt, we have multiple students who got into unbelievably great programs,” Mr. Fuentes pointed out.
Valedictorian Jenna Kesner said it was her family, fellow students, teachers and coaches who helped definite what she had become as she prepared for an internship with her church for a year prior to heading to college.
“Friends shape us in many ways too. I have some amazing friends who have always been there for me. They have challenged me to become a better vision of myself,” Ms. Kesner said.
“I’m so thankful for the incredible teachers and coaches at our school who have molded us into young adults,” she added. “Your dedication to us, even in the midst of touch economic times, has been admirable. Where would we be without you?”
Knowing who they were was important no matter what direction they took in life, according to the valedictorian.
“As graduating seniors, many of us will soon be leaving our nests - our families, our homes, our communities. While this is a very exciting time in our lives, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. I believe an important aspect of having a successful journey into our future is knowing who we are,” Ms. Kesner said.
“Part of knowing what defines us is knowing what we will not allow to define us. We’ve all made mistakes, failed at something or have regrets about choices in our lives, Sometimes we begin to believe a lie that we don’t measure up and that somehow we are disqualified. We begin to believe what other people say about us or the labels they try to put on us,” she said.
But don’t let that happen, Ms. Kesner told her fellow graduates.
“We should never let people’s words limit who we can become,” she said. “Some of us have had a wonderful high school experience and some of us have struggled. Either way, we need to keep in mind that these were just four short years with many more unwritten pages ahead of us.
“As we step out onto our own unique path, remember what has brought you here - your family, friends, teachers, coaches, life experiences and decisions you’ve made along the way. All these things have caused us to become who we are today and impact where we go as we leave the nest,” she said.
Principal Tracy Davison commended the students for the work they put in to reach graduation.
“There is no question all of you have worked very hard to arrive at this day,” she said, noting graduating would open many doors of opportunity.
“I am very proud of you all and thank you for being who you are as individuals and as a group,” Ms. Davison said, describing them as “a class with a whole lot of heart.”
She said, while they may face some anxiety about their future, keep forging ahead.
“Never, ever give up. Reach out to family and friends who will help you stay focused on your dreams,” the principal said. “Have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition.”
Remember, Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. said in his first commencement exercise at St. Lawrence Central, “You have the ability to make things happen.”