PLATTSBURGH - Northeastern Clinton Central School's graduating class is now off into the real world with some sound words of advice from some of their peers and one of their mentors.
The Plattsburgh State Fieldhouse was filled June 23 with nearly 100 graduating members of the Class of 2011, their friends and families as selected keynote speakers addressed the school's annual commencement exercises.
Valedictorian Elaina Sanchez-Freeman, in her address to her fellow graduates, divulged a secret that her aunt once told her. The secret? "Getting ahead is getting starting."
"No doubt most of you are thinking, 'Well, that's not a secret at all. It's common sense,'" said Sanchez-Freeman. "You would think so, but it seems that many people in this world didn't get started, that didn't take that extra step because they were afraid of embarrassment or failure."
"Just in case you forgot, it's okay to fail," she added.
Sanchez-Freeman encouraged her peers to pick themselves up after failing or making a mistake and learn from what they've done.
"Life isn't about a smooth ride, it'll never be," she said. "It's about trying your best and never ever giving up."
Sanchez-Freeman also told her fellow classmates to pursue their desires in life, whether they be to travel, find a job they love, or make a difference in the world.
"We can (aspire) to have anything we want. It just comes down to taking that first step and getting started," she said.
When pursuing their dreams, salutatorian Joel Paquette advised his peers to know how to properly handle any problems that come their way. That was a lesson Paquette said he learned in high school.
"Everyone here is going to face problems in the future, running late on a paper for college, experiencing financial difficulties, and many others," he said. "We have all been running late on an assignment for high school; it happens. Now you could give up and say it's not worth doing, and instead do something more entertaining, or crack down on the assignment and push yourself to do it."
"I usually chose the first option, and soon realized that the stress caused by procrastinating on assignments is not worth it," he added.
Paquette also offered words of advice for those who planned to continue their education after high school, and they were words of advice he received from his own brother.
"My brother told me that one of the best things he did in college was stand out. He wasn't afraid to make himself noticed by fellow students, professors, and even the dean of his college," said Paquette. "If he had a problem, he asked for help. If he wasn't sure what to do, he asked for help. This confidence to not be embarrassed by asking questions gained him much respect in the eyes of his professors."
"If you are embarrassed to ask for help, don't be. Only the smartest kids ask for help," he said.
High school English teacher Al Hamill, who also offered remarks during the ceremony, gave graduates three pieces of advice to mull over - don't waste talent, follow through with responsibilities, and be an active member of the community.
It's following that advice, that he both learned and developed along his own path in life, that Hammel said he's become the man he is today.
"I am a happy and successful person because I choose to be," he said. "As a proud member of the NCCS community, I look forward to seeing, hearing or reading about your happiness and successes, too."