CHAZY - The road has been long and difficult at times for this year's graduating class at Chazy Central Rural School, but it's one Devin E. Latremore said has prepared the class for the journey ahead.
Latremore - who served as senior class speaker for the school's 92nd annual commencement exercises June 25 - said graduation was the end to "life as we know it" but with "a fresh start, a new beginning."
The past 13 years at CCRS were much like the growth of a mighty oak tree, said Latremore, with the students beginning as "baby seedlings" that were delicate and in need of "much care and support."
"We did not have the choice on who our classmates would be," said Latremore. "Instead, we were planted together, in hopes we would survive, perhaps even thrive."
Though some may have had their doubts about them along the way, said Latremore, each student eventually took root, becoming comfortable with one another and learning to trust each other and themselves.
"Luckily, we had our parents, families, and teachers to support us," said Latremore. "They gave us the nutrients needed to grow big and strong, to grow to become the people we are today. Our parents taught us good morals and lessons about life, and our teachers provided us with the knowledge needed to survive."
Throughout the years, the class also had to weather many storms, the worst of which, said Latremore, was the loss of friend and classmate Francis L. "Frankie" Garrow IV. Garrow passed away in December as the result of a motor vehicle accident, forever changing the lives of all he knew.
Latremore said the day Garrow died was the day the mighty class tree lost one of its branches.
"Every time you look at us, you see the gaping hole," said Latremore. "No branch nor leaf covers it; the open wound [is] always there."
Out of Garrow's death, his friends and fellow classmates learned an important lesson, said Latremore - "to live life to the fullest" and "surround yourself by loving friends and family."
"We must not forget that we have to withstand the storms," she said. "As a class we are strong; we are making it through together ... No matter how many years have passed, no matter how many grudges a person may hold, we as a class, as a mighty tree, must make a pact between ourselves that we will always be there for one other."
CCRS superintendent Kevin J. Mulligan, in his final graduation ceremony prior to retirement, applauded the ability of the students to do just that.
"Their handling of the loss of their classmate, Frankie, is a fitting tribute to their character," said Mulligan. "I cannot think of a better community in my 34 years in education than at Chazy Central Rural School."