LAKE GEORGE -The 79 Lake George High School graduates heard plenty of advice at Saturday's graduation event, but much of it was from unexpected sources - from schoolmates and alumni ranging from kindergarten age to well into their 80s.
The ceremony was preceded by a moment of silence for 2002 Lake George graduate Ben Osborn who was killed recently in Afghanistan combat. The observance of Osborn's dedicated service to the nation was met with a lengthy standing ovation.
After the traditional addresses from the top students in the graduating class, Lake George High School principal Francis Cocozza announced he enjoyed annually injecting a surprise into the ceremony.
Cocozza called upon nine Lake Georgians, representing various generations, to offer their advice. Those chosen ranged from a young schoolmate to octogenarian alumni. First to address the group was kindergartner Kyle Dolan, representing the Lake George Class of 2022. The youngster, garbed in a pressed suit and tie, confidently offered a few words of advice.
"You get what you get, and you don't get upset," he proclaimed.
Eighth grader Willie Arnold, representing the class of 2015, advised the grads to avoid bad choices.
"Do the right thing, because it's the 'right thing' to do!" he said.
Sarah Phillips, on behalf of the Class of 2011, advised them to exercise their strength of character, and be determined to reach their goals.
Peter Gaibrois, for the Class of 2009, said the grads should pursue new challenges.
"Get out of your comfort zone at Lake George High and go express and enjoy the endless opportunities that are out there," he said.
Kelcey Noble, of the Class of 2006, offered similar words.
"Create opportunities for yourself," she said, noting that one way to do that is to expand one's horizons, particularly through travel.
Next up was Roger Wells of the Class of 1983, now a science teacher at Lake George. He summed up his advice with two words, "Get Out!" which he expanded to the idea of exploring the world.
"Find your passion, follow your heart, then come back to Lake George - even if it's just to visit," he said.
Connie Luke, of the Class of 1960, gave the grads a series of tips.
"Set goals in your life, pray for wisdom, cultivate your listening skills, give credit when credit is due, don't sweat the small stuff, don't become a workaholic. Choose your friends wisely, and keep a sense of humor," she said.
With a wry smile, "Uncle Vic" Lefebvre of the Class of 1947, advised the female grads to break with convention and "do a couple of loads of laundry even if the clothes aren't yours," and for the males, "Take dad out to lunch and pick up the check."
Restaurateur Carl DeSantis advised the group to pursue their interests with persistence.
"Take the career path that best fits you - success is measured in many ways," he said, adding that charity work was important for all. "Hard work and determination do pay off - Consider what Rachael Ray has accomplished."
The nine honor group students recalled their roots - the theme of the graduation - as they offered observations on the future.
Madeline Rehm recalled fistfights to first crushes during the early school years.
"Lake George Elementary is where we sunk our roots, and where they'll remain while we continue to grow," she said.
Mary Strachan recalled wastebasket fires, aggressive dodge-ball games and bean-bag tag.
"It takes a village to raise a child, and I can't think of a better community to grow up in," she said.
Erika LaPlante said she grew up to understand her parents' advice to not "wish childhood away." She remembered the boys in fifth grade making a massive brownie ball filled with ketchup, and other elementary highlights.
"No matter where we go or what we become, we'll always be a family," she said.
Chelsea Scott said graduation may be the end of secondary school, but it was "the beginning of a dream."
Steve Petramale advised the graduates to be adaptable.
"Out future is forever changing and it's imperative we accept these challenges in order to move forward," he said.
Connor Perkett said today's graduates would be tackling society's problems, both current and future ones. He also advised his classmates to follow their dreams.
"Do what your heart says even when your head screams," he said.
Honor student Taylor Dawson, announced the Class of 2010's selection of the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association as recipients of the annual class charitable gift. She noted she'd lost her mother to cancer, and observed how cancer and heart disease had claimed the lives of many other loved ones in the community, mentioning the passing of beloved coach and longtime teacher Ray Chandler.
"I hope our contribution will continue the life-saving work of these two organizations," Dawson said.
The retirement of technological guru Rich Strauss was noted, and he was accorded lengthy applause.
School superintendent Mary Cahill advised the graduates to keep rooted in the present while they anticipate the future.
"Fully appreciate the moment at hand," Cahill said, urging them to look around at the teachers, parents and friends who were dedicated to making them successful.
"Take a moment to cherish the experiences you've had at Lake George," she added. "They will take you anywhere you want to go in your lives."