Kim Ladd/Lifescapes Photography
OUR FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT... Basking in the spotlight due to their achievements, Warrensburg High School’s soon-to-be-graduates don shades to reduce the glare shortly before receiving their diplomas.
Standing at a lectern during graduation ceremonies Friday June 22, Warrensburg High School Principal Doug Duell paused and surveyed the Class of 2012 onstage — perhaps his last look at the 66 class members at once.
“This class is one of the highest academic-achieving classes to ever leave this building,” he said, noting that 30 of the students were graduating with an 85 percentile ranking or higher, and 22 were National Honor Society members. Duell added that many of them were also accomplished actors, musicians, athletes and ballet dancers.
Superintendent of Schools Tim Lawson noted that a large number in the Class of 2012 were headed to well-respected colleges, led by Valedictorian Maggie Danna to Middlebury College and Salutatorian John "Jack" Eaton to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Many others, he said, were off to study pharmacology, medicine, engineering, mathematics, accounting, and media arts.
Recognizing their achievements, Duell offered advice to the students, poised to move forward in life. He noted that accepting and practicing responsibility was key to mental health, success and happiness.
Responsibility, he said, is reflected in practicing self-discipline, expressing gratitude, pursuing service to others, and staying connected to one’s roots.
Self-discipline means controlling desires, actions, and attitudes, he said, to avoid being self-centered and shallow.
“Self-discipline involves acting according to what you think instead of how you feel in the moment — Often it means sacrificing the pleasure and thrill of the moment for what matters most in life.”
Lawson also referred to responsibility.
“We in the public schools have done our job only if our students become fully responsible for their own continued intellectual, professional and civic growth,” he said.
High Honors student Autumn Smith talked about how the many accomplished students in her class had already applied responsibility to get where they are today.
“It’s taken many hours of studying, late nights finishing projects, and juggling difficult course loads, along with various extracurricular activities,” she said.
“Every one of us has the qualities needed for success in their chosen path,” she continued, noting that courage and perseverance were vital in pursuing one’s dreams.
WCS graduate Doug Kenyon, former Athletic Director at Glens Falls High and long-time Section II executive director, also urged the students to pursue their goals with fortitude.
“You must have courage to follow your dreams and stand up for what is right,” he said. “It takes courage to live a life of integrity and the courage not to be afraid to fail — your greatest growth will come as a result of the times you struggled.”
Kenyon also detailed the extensive community activities of the 2012 graduates.
Duell urged the students to be true to their roots.
“Stay connected to your family, your friends and your community — this connectedness is important and will give you a lifetime of happiness,” he said. “Greet people with a warm smile, look people in the eye, gave a firm handshake, praise someone when they deserve it and remember the lessons learned at home, in school and on the athletic field — These will carry you forward to a meaningful and responsible life.”
Salutatorian Jack Eaton also talked of maintaining family bonds.
“Very few people will ever help you, care for you and love you like your family will,” he said. Eaton extended the concept to one’s friendships.
“Our friends help us get up when we’re down, push us forward when we think there’s nowhere to go but backwards; they laugh with us, they cry with us, they’re always there for us,” he continued.
The WCS Mastersingers and the high school chorus, directed by school choral director James Corriveau, sang several selections including “I Won’t Give Up” and “What Makes You Beautiful.”
The Class of 2012’s kindergarten teachers Roz Johnson, Diana Pataki, Glenda Howland and Christine Sullivan witnessed their “Millennium Students” graduate. The grads had been presented with the time capsules they created as kindergartners in year 2000. Hanging on the wall was a quilt created from portraits of each of the Millennium Students as youngsters.
Valedictorian Maggie Danna bridged the gap between those early years and the present — by quoting Albus Dumbledore, a headmaster in the Harry Potter books.
“It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” she said. Both she and Eaton praised the school for preparing them well in facing choices in life, as well as nurturing a strong bond with the community.
In that vein, Danna advised her fellow graduates to keep in mind the impact their lives would have on others.
“By choosing careers and volunteering opportunities we are passionate about and that give back to our communities, we can make a difference,” she said.