MASSENA - A slideshow that played prior to Massena Central School’s graduation ceremonies on Saturday showed memories of the past in students’ lives - from photographs of the students when they were smiling little babies to times when the soon-to-be graduates were gathered as a group and still giving big smiles for the camera.
When the ceremony was over just more than an hour later, it was time for the 178 graduates to go out and make some new memories in their future.
Speaking to fellow graduates and a gymnasium packed with families and friends, valedictorian Samuel Gerber, who finished school with a 98.78 grade point average, said it was up to them to create their own destiny as they left Massena Central.
“As we’ve progressed through our education, we’ve gradually been given more and more room to create our own experience and take responsibility for our day-to-day lives,” Mr. Gerber said.
“In the elementary school, we all took the same classes and ate lunch at the same time and took all the same tests. But as we moved into the junior high and high school, decisions had to be made - what language to take, IB, Tech Prep, BOCES, where to go to college, where to work, what branch of the military to join,” he said.
There will be more decisions to make in the days, months and years ahead as they chart their future, according to Mr. Gerber.
“Wherever we continue on to after we leave here, we can be sure that even more responsibilities and freedoms await us. It is up to us to choose our path in life and hopefully all of us will make the right choices,” he said.
Mr. Gerber said Massena Central offered him lessons in finding a goal and accomplishing it, something all of the graduates would need to do as they entered a new chapter in their lives. By knowing what they want and working toward it, he said, they “can receive satisfaction and fulfillment.
“Set a goal of being a state championship hockey team, and it can be done. Set a goal of producing a full musical complete with dancing, singing, lights and a set in three months, and it can be done. Set a goal to get into MIT, eh, maybe not. Set a goal to graduate high school, and we all did it,” he said.
No matter what path they took in life, there was a place where they could fit in and be successful, the valedictorian said.
“Some of us will go on to build things, others will go on to help people and at least one of us will probably be famous for something,” Mr. Gerber said.
Mr. Gerber already had a jump start on making a difference in life, according to teacher Jodi LaGarry, who introduced him to the crowd.
“Sam has the qualities of a good leader. He is great with people and he is so helpful. He has the qualities of someone who’s going to be able to go far,” she said.
Salutatotorian Daniel Elman, who finished school with a 98.72 grade point average, said they may have graduated from high school, but there was still work ahead of them.
“As we go our separate ways in the coming year, we can be certain that tasks and projects will still be required of us, no matter what we do. My advice to everybody is to bite the bullet and do the work. Of course, it isn’t fun to do, but when you are enjoying a completed project and plenty of free time in the days approaching the deadline, you will appreciate your decision,” Mr. Elman said.
He challenged the members of the Class of 2014 to manage their time well, something Mr. Elman said he sometimes struggled with in high school.
“My challenge to our class as we go off into the world is not to create a time machine or perfect nuclear fusion, although if any of you do that I know we’d all be grateful. My challenge is to manage our time well. Find a passion, give back to your community, fulfill your obligations and don’t procrastinate. It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile and I’m fully confident that our time here at Massena Central has prepared us to do just that,” Mr. Elman said.
The salutatorian was already on his way to blazing his own trail, according to teacher Rebecca Violi, who introduced him during Saturday’s ceremony.
“He did not coast into this position. Dan made his own path and has left a trail for others to follow,” she said.
Interim Superintendent William H. Flynn said the success of the graduates - “your children, our students” - was a joint effort between families and the school, from the time they entered school for the first time to Saturday when they were officially declared graduates by high school Principal Patrick Farrand. They had “grown up in what seems a very short period of time,” but always had the support of families and the school, Mr. Flynn said.
“Thank you for your support over the course of the past 13 years,” he said. “We all need to congratulate ourselves one and all on a job very well done.”