COLTON - Laughter was shared, tears were shed and plenty of applause was given Friday night as 25 students from Colton-Pierrepont Central School took a monumental step in their life journeys.
The group of young men and women completed their high school graduation exercises before an auditorium filled with a crowd that heard plenty of thought-provoking speeches.
The primary guest speaker, outgoing St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Assistant Superintendent Steven J. Todd, talked of the three vital pieces of life advice he has learned from his one-year-old daughter. He was recently named the district superintendent for the BOCES serving Jefferson County.
“During the last year I’ve learned a great deal about some of the more subtle and important qualities we all often neglect but desperately need in order to serve others and live lives of value and achievement and lead,” Mr. Todd said. “I’m talking about the sort of wisdom many one-year-olds teach us all. A type of wisdom we tend to forget when we get older, busier and more important. I’d like to share with you three things I’ve learned from Abby, that have helped me to better understand the true meaning of service, character, leadership and achievement. You might call this message ‘Todd on Toddlers.’”
Mr. Todd’s three pieces of advice for the graduates werebe nice, be silly and tell the people you care about that you love them.
The superintendent also discussed the importance of opening doors both in a literal and metaphorical sense.
“Doors can present either a barrier or an invitation. They can serve to exclude or include. Doors make all the difference in the world and so do the ones who open and close them,” Mr. Todd said. “So I urge you - be an opener of doors. The phrase isn’t mine. I got it from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great 19th thinker and writer.”
One of the two senior speakers was valedictorian Andrew Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins knows he will be attending Middlebury College in the fall, but admitted to being otherwise very unsure about his life path ahead.
This, he said to his fellow graduates, is not a cause for concern.
“My life is as planned out as much as I think it could possibly be, but I still have no idea what I’m doing; not a clue,” Mr. Jenkins said. “So, if you have a plan that’s great. It’s amazing and you’ve pulled off something a lot of us couldn’t. But I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m not ready for a plan. I’m ready to wait and that’s ok. ... The important thing is that everyone here goes out into the world and knows that it isn’t scary, cutthroat, or trying to take away everything that you’ve come to love in high school. It’s a realm of possibilities.”
Class of 2014 salutatorian Sabrina Johnson addressed her classmates with the message of “do what makes you excited.
“Graduation is the beginning of an unspeakably exciting era of life. Who knows where you’ll be in a few years? Who knows how much money you will have made or what you will have accomplished by then?” she said. “I guess what I’m trying to say is everything that you are about to do is what you will look back on years from now. ... At the end of the day, you get to decide how successful you live your live - whether you place value on family, on friends, on fun or on wealth - well, that’s all up for you to decide.”
Other than inspirational words of wisdom, scores of awards and gifts were distributed last night.
Class of 2014 faculty advisors Nicole Weakfall and Megan Leger shared with the graduates an impromptu spoken song mash-up, including lyrics from many hit songs during the students tenure in the district.
Song lyrics were spoken by the duo and they explained how they each related to the students’ lives.
One of the highlights which led to plenty of laughter and tears was a slideshow presentation created by the graduates’ parents.
Each of the students was individually featured in a small group of photos, showing their infancy to graduation progression, while sentimental songs like Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of your Life)” and Five for Fighting’s “100 Years” played in the background.
Superintendent Joseph A. Kardash spoke to the crowded room, presenting countless awards and scholarships, while also sharing fond personal memories of times with the seniors.
This preceded the presentation of the diplomas, which were handed out by Colton-Pierrepont Board of Education President Michael Dumas.
“Nobody remembers most of these speeches in a few years because we hear them every year and it’s hard to remember all the great things you heard tonight,” Mr. Kardash said. “But if you can take away one thing that you heard, that was a theme through many of the speeches, it’s choose to be happy. Happiness won’t find you. You need to go find it. You need to choose to be happy. You can be happy in almost any circumstance. You can choose to be angry, you can choose to be sad, you can choose to be happy. You’ll go through all of those emotions but in general, during the day, you’ll always look back and be glad that you chose to be happy if you can manage to do that.”