Schools across the region held commencement ceremonies for their 2010 graduates last weekend, marking a major milestone for young men and women and the communities in which they have grown.
The 23 graduates of Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School celebrated their matriculation June 25 and paid tribute to the people who supported their journey.
Class salutatorian Joshua Pierce reflected on life, comparing it to a hike up a mountain.
"As I look around tonight, I see many people that have influenced me. Each of you has helped to equip me for my own journey up my mountain," he said. "I know that I am not only speaking for myself, but for the rest of the graduates on the stage with me."
Valedictorian Lance Lee congratulated his fellow classmates for surviving their time in school and thanked parents and teachers for helping to make the most of the past 13 years.
"I'm sure most of us shared a dislike of school at some time or another due to tests or other reasons, but I also believe in the good times we've had," said Lee. "Yes, we've had our days when we just craved to run away and never be seen again, but we have also experienced the joys of school which have made us proud to have endured these years."
Hundreds gathered on the grounds of the Lake Placid Speedskating Oval June 25 to recognize the 47 graduates of Lake Placid Central School
Salutatorian Morgan Caudill shared her experience as a student moving into the district six years ago, wary of how her life would change in a new school.
"But my [first] day went better than I expected, and the next six years were more amazing than I could have imagined," she said. "I never felt like an outsider; I felt that I belonged. I was accepted."
Her classmates may be experiencing similar feelings with graduation, Caudill noted, feeling as if they are leaving behind friends and fond memories as they go on to face new experiences.
"Right now, the future after we walk across this stage and wrap our hands around our diplomas is uncertain and hazy," she said. "We all know that we will absolutely encounter challenges and hardships throughout our life, but despite the gray areas of our future, we realize that everything will turn out for the best."
Valedictorian Danielle Lussi noted how the Class of 2010, many of whom have been together since kindergarten, will now go their separate ways, but she encouraged them to remember the "Three P's:" passion, perserverance, and patience.
Lussi shared how her own story of perserverance in training as a ski jumper, recalling her first time on the 120-meter jump in Lake Placid.
"Minutes later, rising in the elevator for my second jump, I could only think of how all those hours in the gym lifting weights, stretching, working on agility and coordination and, of course, the thousands of jumps on the smaller hills," Lussi said, "and how the persistence had paid off in the form of one jump on the 120."
A crowd of friends and family members lined the floor and the stands at the Saranac Lake Civic Center June 25 honoring the 2010 graduates of Saranac Lake Central School.
Ed McCarthy, a former social studies teacher at Saranac Lake, delivered the commencement address, urging students to trust themselves while working towards their goals.
Valedictorian Hillary Pond lauded her classmates' multitude of talents.
"Although we may be one of the smallest classes to graduate from Saranac Lake High School, the magnitude of our success has been immense," said Pond. "Together, the 117 students that stand before you today have achieved undefeated sports seasons, won national competitions in the arts, claimed the Lifesmarts New York State Championship, staged the first ever Youth Climate Summit, studied abroad on three different continents, raised money to sponsor Jambo Jipya School in Mtwapa, Kenya, and even represented the United States in the 2010 Winter Olympics."
Pond presented her classmates with 10 pieces of advice, among which were to be passionate, not take life too seriously, and to not spend all their time on Facebook.
Katherine Mazdzer delivered the salutatory address.
Westport's graduating class of 25 took some time June 26 to reflect on their accomplishments and thank the community that fostered them.
Salutatorian Martha McKinley noted the close ties among her classmates despite their wide-range of talents and interests.
"Despite our yearning to leave, this school has meant a lot us," she said. "It has served as a safe haven for me and the other 24 students sitting in those chairs, and, whether the school admits it or not, we have had a large impact here."
McKinley went on to suggest her class would be the most successful ever to graduate from Westport.
"I can bet that in a few years, at least five of our names will be on the celebrity list from Westport, and not one of us will forget where we went to high school."
Valentina Rodriguez was this year's valedictorian at Westport.
For reports on commencement ceremonies at AuSable Valley, Keene, Tupper Lake, and Willsboro, see last week's edition of The Valley News, or visit www.thevalleynews.org