Peru seniors make their way to the stage during commencement.
PERU – Raelyn Passino gazed over the silent wave of blue and white and asked, “Do you remember that first step onto the school bus, kissing mom and dad goodbye?”
“Do you remember middle school, when you carried extremely oversized backpacks?”
“How about freshman year?”
You only live once, said Peru High School’s Class of 2012 valedictorian, and time moves continuously. This is a time of enthusiasm for what comes next and a time of sorrow for what is left behind.
“I challenge you to make high-quality use of your time.”
Last-minute arrivals scrambled for a seat and loved ones rushed to take pictures as the graduates entered from the corner of Plattsburgh State’s Field House. Some smiled as they walked, others looked around for familiar faces, at least one had Captain America shields in each ear, and a few appeared blank-faced, as if in shock the moment had arrived, something that had once seemed so distant suddenly in their faces and all too real.
“Just four years ago, we were freshmen, and senior year seemed so distant and out of reach,” said Salutatorian Emily Betrus. “Over the past 13 years we have gained a substantial amount of knowledge.”
The learning does not end here, she said. It is just beginning.
That journey has not been without its tragedy.
Early last year, Frederick Schaefer died after a battle with cancer. The Peru teacher and school administrator left behind a wife and three children and was remembered for his sense of humor, strong spirit and uncompromising integrity.
Then, in November of last year, Brandon Sorrell and three other students lost their lives in a car/pedestrian accident. The Peru teen was remembered as generous, giving and possessing a large heart.
Both were remembered at Peru High School’s 75th commencement.
Interim Superintendent A. Paul Scott, who retired but came back to assist until the new, permanent superintendent takes over, commented that he had observed the class of 2012 for more than a decade. He’s watched as they’ve learned about fractions, geography, evacuation drills, regents exams and how to make good choices.
He urged the graduates to keep their eye on the road ahead, and while it is all right to look back in the mirror, do not dwell on it. The future, Scott said, is theirs to create.
“You are not kids anymore,” said School Board President Roderick Driscoll. “You need to get started with the rest of your life.”
Today is not the finish line, he told them, but the starting line, and they should put their heart into whatever they decide to do.
Guest speaker, Peter McCormick, asked them who helped them pack their parachutes? He wanted to know who stood by their sides, helped them and carried them through a crisis. He said they should identify those people, take care of them and thank them.
As High School Principal Christopher Mazzella stood in front of the packed room, he relayed that the year’s ongoing theme was change. The students watched the clip of a homeless man with a cup that read, “change.” When people dropped money into the cup, he bought coffee for another homeless person, donated it to a sick child and helped a runaway girl get home.
“The change is a metaphor to create positive change in our school and world,” Mazzella said as he looked directly at the class of 2012. “I hope you are going to make great change.”