CHESTERTOWN - Glowing in the emotional warmth generated by the crowd of appreciative parents, friends and fellow students, the 38 Seniors of North Warren High School received their diplomas at commencement exercises held Saturday at the school.
Salutatorian Ben Magee noted the deep community bond as he offered his speech during the ceremony.
"It is because of people like you that we were able to accomplish the daunting task of completing our schooling," he said. "Also, it is because of the people assembled here today that we have been shaped into well-rounded individuals."
Kyle McKenzie offered a welcome, and High School business teacher offered inspiration to the students as the event's guest speaker, remarking on the deep bond that the students have between each other and with the school faculty and staff.
The Senior Chorus, joined by staff members, sang a finale from the musical "Rent."
School Board President Marion Eagan presented the diplomas, and Principal Theresa Andrew and Superintendent Joe Murphy bestowed scholarships and awards.
Students Matt Caunter, Jeff Lemelson and Dalton Wilson performed the Grateful Dead selections "Saint Stephen" and "I Bid You Goodnight."
With a smile, Valedictorian Jena Allen likened the Seniors' evolution from childhood through teen years to the life cycle of a cicada, an insect which spends 17 years underground in the dark before emerging as a mature creature.
"When cicadas complete this long, arduous process, the rush out into the open world, scamper around for mates, reproduce, and then die, all while making a lot of noise," she said.
On a more serious note, Allen said each student had something substantial to offer society, if they applied their talents and pursued their goals.
"Each of us standing here, each of us in total, has something that is vital, something that is important, something that is needed," she said. "As people have before us and will after us, we are simply taking our turn in the cycle."
Allen added that the North Warren Senior were soon to abandon the familiar and embark on new challenges - and that each student's unique attributes could contribute to society's progress and well-being.
"We are about to end up in a large world with many opportunities - and just as many fears," she said. "We as individuals will have to face our own problems, and we as a society must work together to face the world's problems. We each have something to offer, our own colors and our own quirks, our own jagged points and rounded edges...that will eventually fit together perfectly, interlocking our points and edges and colors and lines smoothly to create the big picture - we are all pieces of a puzzle, and we will all find our niche if we simply seek it out."