LAKEGEORGE-Although they may have experienced far more in life already than some of their contemporaries, soon-to-be graduates of Lake George High School got to see a stunt never before witnessed at a graduation ceremony in the region.
Their principal, Francis Cocozza, scaled a climbing wall for the first time in his life and dove off a platform - despite being "terrified of heights" - to prove a point about conquering fears in pursuing life's experiences.
"Omigosh, I am so freaked out,' he exclaimed after scrambling up to the platform.
Regaining his composure, he looked down at about 1,000 people assembled for the graduation ceremonies, many stunned at his feat.
"Face up to your problems and fears, whatever they are," he said. "With commitment and passion, you can do anything," he added, before plunging off a high platform, grabbing a globe, and descending to the gymnasium floor.
Superintendent of Schools Patrick Dee urged the students to prevail, despite the uncertainties in today's world.
"Prepare for a life without a safety net," he said, noting that the students should approach upcoming challenges with integrity, honor, compassion, drive, and patience.
"At times, you will be focused on survival, but you will still come forth."
Dee advised them to stay flexible, and not predetermine what success means to them. He also urged them to give back to their communities and society.
"Congratulations Class of 2011," he said. "Wherever life takes you, you will always be Warriors!"
Following Warrior tradition, the students in the top 10 percent of the graduating class offered up memories and advice to their classmates.
Mikayla Trombley urged the students to follow the theme of the 2001 graduation, keeping in touch with one's inner child.
She advised the grads to nurture their imagination and creativity and to fully experience life's wonders.
"Look at life, your surroundings, with your eyes wide open," she said.
Richard Feathers said that Lake George Central's approach to nurturing creativity and intellectual curiosity would serve the graduates well in the years to come.
"It will have a lasting impact that will stay with us throughout our lives," he said.
Kelly Flaherty urged her classmates to overcome any fears.
"It's about taking chances and take advantage of all the opportunities we have been given," she said. Other members of the honor group offering their thoughts were Zachary Serlin, Sean Thompson-Dunleavy, Jenna Bechard, and Megan O'Carroll.
Jenna Bechard said all the graduates were in charge of their individual destinies.
"It's up to us to decide what we do and where we go - the possibilities are unlimited," she said.
Bechard continued, predicting that her classmates were destined to make a difference in society.
"Don't be afraid to make mistakes - your mountain is waiting," she said. "We can change the world!"