BRASHER FALLS - Its been almost a half century since St. Lawrence Central has been known for its 100 Marching Saints, the renowned marching band directed by the late Belva Eagles.
And you would have to go back to the late 1970s and early 1980s to find years when the graduating classes year in and year out were over 100 seniors.
But there is now some recent history for the school as 101 seniors marched across the west lawn at the high to take part in the Class of 2013 commencement exercises. And the schools front lawn was filled to capacity as friends and family members joined the seniors for the commencement exercises and listened as speakers remembered the school journey that brought them to high school graduation, remembered the role friends and families had played in helping get them through high school, paused to reflect on a tragedy last summer that claimed the life of an elementary school teacher and her two daughters, students at the school, and looked forward to the journey that members of the Class of 2013 are embarking on.
Weve been through a lot together. Weve laughed, cried, fought, learned, procrastinated, and grown together. Weve seen each other at our best moments and at our worst, from being adorable kindergartners to awkward preteens to the young adults we are today. And now its time for us to leave all this, the only life weve ever known, to go out into the world, Valedictorian Heather Nicholson told her classmates.
Up until now, life has been pretty straight forward in a lot of ways. Sure things have come up, and weve all had our fair share of struggles, but day after day we kept coming to this building, taking these classes, living as an SLC student. Today marks the end of that forever. If you come back to this building, it wont be as a high school student. Are you sad? Were leaving dear teachers and friends. There are so many precious memories that have been made here. The sports, the musicals, the language clubs, the school events - weve had some amazing times, she noted.
Are you scared? Were going places weve never been and getting responsibilities weve never had. Well be adults now, bringing up the next generation, running the show. Its a big world out there. But we are the Class of 2013, and we can take it on, Ms. Nicholson said.
She suggested her classmates had reached a crossroads. You have choices before you - choices about what to do with your life from here on out. Dont sell yourself short. Every single one of you has the potential to do wonderful things for the world, for a future family, and for yourself, she pointed out.
I dont know where well all be in 10 years or 20. None of us can know what challenges we may face. Certainly there will be some. But I dont want any of you to let those stop you. If nothing else, the one thing I want to say to you guys today is choose to be happy. Count your blessings every day, whether you live in a mansion, a trailer or a cardboard box by the road. Material things are nice, but they arent whats most important. A millionaire can still be miserable, but I hear those starving people in Africa are amazingly cheerful. No situation or person has the power to determine whether you are happy. That choice is left to you, she reminded her classmates.
Ms. Nicholson urged her classmates to work hard but to never be too busy for their families. Prepare for the future, but dont stress about it. Worrying wont stop the bad stuff from happening. It will just keep you from enjoying the good. Serve others and take some time for yourself too. Live a life you can be proud of and dont worry about the neighbor who has a nicer car than you, she added before reflecting on Dr. Seusss words of advice about being off to great places. Youre off to Great Places! Youre off and away You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. Youre on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy wholl decide where to go, she read from Dr. Seusss work.
Salutatorian Caitlin Grow also focused on the importance of family in her address. There are a few things that my dad would say to my sisters and me each morning when he dropped us off at school. He said, Remember to say please and thank you. Play nice with your friends. And have fun, When I ask my mom for advice, she always says, Do whatever your little heart desires, she noted.
We should be thankful to our family, parents and teachers for all the advice they have given and continue to give. These are the people who have made us who we are today and who have gotten us to this point. So as we journey on to the next chapter of our lives let us remember those who have helped us on this journey, she said.
Now as we move on let us remember to say please and thank you, to play nice with our friends, to do whatever our little hearts desire but also where we came from. Let us remember our small school in Brasher Falls, whether we are near or far. We will always remember the memories we share but let us also remember the people who laughed and cried along with us, who drove us to and from all our events, who taught us everything we need to know, who loved and cared for us and who pushed us to become better. Soon there will be many changes but one thing that wont change is the love that our parents, teachers, and community have for us. They will always have our backs, Ms. Grow told her classmates.
The commencement exercises also marked the final official event for retiring School Superintendent Stephen Putman. The senior class presented Mr. Putman with a picture of the school, donated benches that will be placed outside the doors to the high school gym and by the schools athletic field and noted they had planted a red maple tree next to the flagpole in front of the school to honor staff members who retired at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Class officer Morgan Villnave presented Jeff Dana with a yearbook that was dedicated to the memory of his wife and two daughters, who died in a multi-vehicle accident on July 9, 2012 in the town of Antwerp. Their deaths left scars on our school and community, Ms. Villnave noted.
Mr. Dana later presented the Dana Memorial Scholarship for the first time. The first recipient of the scholarship was Cheyenne Padgett, who plans to study dance at Hofstra. Mr. Danas daughters, rising sixth and ninth graders at the time of their deaths, were active in a Brushton dance studio.
While the seniors paused to reflect on the past, they were also looking forward. Our class has no fear. Were always ready to take the next step. We can make a difference. We can change the world, senior class President Stephanie Peets said.
Later in the evening after Mr. Putman had repeated his refrain from years past - urging the students to take time to read to their children when they reach that stage in their lives and to mean it if they told their children no, he called for them to shift the tassels on their caps signifying they had gone from students to graduates.
Caps flew into the air, an explosion of silly string filled the risers where the students took and then covered with memories of their past they took their first steps into their futures.