LAKE GEORGE - Graduating Lake George High School students heard a brew of advice and anecdotes Saturday from eight of their top classmates Friday, as the Class of 2009 honor students examined the past, present and future in their commencement addresses.
Stephanie Hayes, Andrea Sause and Cameron Jones focused on the past.
Hayes recalled how 13 years ago, she and her classmates had been anxious, curious and excited when beginning their educational and social journey at Lake George Central School.
"Elementary School wasn't just a place for learning, but it was where we became familiar with the fundamental values which made us who we are today." she said.
She said she and her classmates had learned to try their hardest, learn from their errors, and strive for the best.
"The future is up to us to create," Hayes advised the other Seniors. "I'm confident that all of you will make the best of what life throws at you."
Jones said that the tough times as well as the pleasurable experiences were valuable and character-building.
"The past can either hold you back or make you stronger," he said, recalling activities and achievements of his class. "I'm convinced that we are a class whose past only strengthens us for the future."
Sause recalled the elementary school teachers who had nurtured the members of the Class of 2009 and prepared them for the future with enduring values.
"Our friends have changed, our personalities have grown, but our hearts will always remain together," Sause said.
Honor students Katie Flatley and Peter Gaibrois spoke on the present.
Flatley talked about memorable experiences the class encountered through the years.
She talked about how a trip is more about the journey along the way rather than the destination - it is important to savor the present, she said.
"I encourage every person in this room to live their dreams, because the present only comes once," she said.
With a generous dose of humor, Gaibrois related in detail his pre-teen trepidation in facing seventh grade, including a Chevy-Chase-type mishap as he examined his clothing in preparation for his first day of junior high school.
"We've been there together thought he stressful and challenging times, and naturally the fun and downright amusing times as well," he said.
"This was quite the new beginning here at 381 Canada Street, but we have even greater things ahead of us," he said.
"The most important thing is how we have learned to turn to each other and our teachers."
Evaluating the future was undertaken at the ceremony by honor students Richard Kandora, Emily O'Carroll and Monique Merchant.
O'Carroll observed that each member of the Class of 2009 had a unique passion they should pursue.
"Do what you love - travel the world, stand up for something you believe in," she said, offering career advice. "Don't ever get stuck in something you can't stand."
She said that every moment in their lives, shaped personalities, values and aspirations.
"Don't forget where you came from," she said. "Don't forget the people you saw in the hallways, the friends you made and the teachers you looked up to, because it made who you are."
Kandora said that the future was scary not because of what it holds in store, but because of others' potential actions based on gloomy forecasts.
He said that despite such forecasts, life has a "universal balance" that compensates, and people should persist in following their goals.
"Everybody here holds their future in their own hands," he said.
Senior Honor student Ashley McGinnis announced that the Class of 2009 would be making the annual graduation donation to Parry-Romberg Syndrome Resource, in memory of the late Katie Goodspeed - mother of Senior Logan Place - who suffered from the rare syndrome.
She said the charitable gift to the foundation would help provide for research, early diagnosis and treatment - all in honor of Goodspeed.
"However large or small your donation is, I can assure you that it will make a difference in someone's life," she said.
Caitlin Tomko, also an Honor student, offered a Class gift of a class portrait to the school and made another presentation to Class Advisor and technology teacher Phil Gengel, praising him for his enthusiasm, hard work, and relentless devotion guiding the students through various activities.
"He can brighten up anyone's day with his upbeat personality and unique sense of humor," she said. "We'll also remember him for his excellent singing voice."
Superintendent of Schools Mary Cahill said that people are in essence the sum of their experiences and the choices they make.
"Our experiences inform and shape our view of the world, the actions we take, our beliefs, and our relationships," she said. "This is just the beginning of a promising future."
Principal Fran Cocozza offered a similar exhortation.
"You truly have the potential for greatness," he said.