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31 students make up OESJ's first class

Saturday, June 28, 2014 - Updated: 10:05 AM


C-S-E Editor

ST. JOHNSVILLE -- The 31-member Class of 2014 was the first to graduate from the merged Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District during Friday evening's First Annual Commencement, held in the OESJ High School auditorium.

It was a night of firsts. The ceremony, signaling the successful completion of the first year as a merged district, featured a brand new Senior Time Capsule, a refined version of the former St. Johnsville Central School District's annual video montage. The graduates lined the walls of the auditorium to watch a film outlining some of the senior class' most notable moments, including the 2014 prom, held in Lake George, NY, and a class trip to Orlando, FL.

The class also featured two salutatorians and two valedictorians, one chosen from each former district.

Following the Processional -- "Pomp and Circumstance", played by the OESJ High School Band under the direction of Marge Curtis as the seniors entered from the back of the auditorium and made their way to the stage, Acting High School Principal Thomas Kawryga welcomed the students.

During her Salutatory Address, titled "15 Things", Co-Salutatorian Skyler Viveros complimented fellow graduates individually, noting how each of their distinct attributes would benefit them in life.

For instance, she commented on fellow graduate Ryan Becker's self confidence, stating, "You're the type of person that could tell the crowd that the sky is green and would keep going until three-fourths of the crowd believed you," imploring him, "If you continue to believe in yourself that much, I know you will go far."

She singled out Tyler Boonen and Brian Whitman for their kindness, Russell Dunderdale and Jeremy Wegener for providing much-needed distractions, and complemented others for positive features including staying involved, passion, perseverance, uniqueness and having an opinion.

Co-Salutatorian Jeremy Wegener, during his Salutatory Address, titled "The Game of Life", asked his fellow classmates some hard questions; "Will our teenage experiences affect our adult lives? Will our identities carry over to the real world, or will we change and grow and leave them behind?"

"What does the future hold for us?"

He said, "in our search for the answers, we might be tempted to treat our futures like one of those simple board games like Candy Land or Shoots and Ladders, with everyone starting out at the same point and following a linear path to a set end goal."

Though he said it's natural that life is like a board game in many ways, explaining, "we are all moving forward from the same point, graduating high school," he indicated that there are also important differences.

"Board games teach us that even though there are many players, there is only one winner and one way to win. Life is not like this. In life, there are many paths that we can take, with each path offering a different way to win."

Numerous seniors removed themselves from the stage to briefly join the OESJ High School Band prior to Co-Valedictorian Ellen Smith's Valedictory Address, titled, "On the Outskirts of Tomorrow," the point of which was to remind her peers that to achieve success in life, a person must not only focus on the goal in front of them -- but also on themselves.

She said, "The most important thing I learned while on the outskirts of tomorrow is how to treat people. I learned something more than just math and science from my teachers. I learned that everyone deserves respect, no matter who they are or what they look like."

The human spirit and personal growth, she said, must not be ignored, continuing, "Integrity is the foundation for relationships, and you will need that in all aspects of life. Hard work and humility go hand in hand."

Co-Valedictorian Jessica Senft delivered the final speech of the evening, recalling memories of when the former Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville central school district students first met.

She said, "Rewind first to spring of 2013. Each of us in a brand new, bright red Wolfpack Nation t-shirt, much like some of our caps and gowns today, we were brought together to mingle over ice cream and music. Back then, I only knew a few of you, and I've gotten to know you all much better than our initial 'what's your name?'"

While she stated, "the first day of school, I was more nervous than ever before," she recalled how the nervousness faded as the students came to know one another. She spoke about how monumental class trips were in bonding them on a personal level. "When we were out, it was like we were really becoming friends," she said.

"As we graduate today, I would like us all to reflect on the words of Henry David Thoreau," she added, quoting him, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Life the life you always imagined."

Senft concluded, "Here's to the best year we've had together, the memories we've had and the memories we'll make, whether together or apart, as we take this big step towards tomorrow."

Following a brief section of the ceremony where students were acknowledged for the scholarship awards they received (given out during a ceremony held prior to the commencement), OESJ Board of Education President Susanne Sammons awarded each student with a diploma as Superintendent Thomas Gallagher called them forth. 

After a reading of the Alma Mater, with the crowd joining in, and closing remarks by Sammons, the students exited the stage to very different, yet, forever entwined futures.

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