WEST VALLEY—Friends, family and community members packed the West Valley Central School auditorium to honor the 23 students from the WVCS class of 2017 at their commencement ceremony June 24.Principal
incipal Dan Amodeo kicked off the ceremony with a speech commending the students for all their hard work throughout their school careers and encouraging students as they take the next steps into a new chapter of their lives.
“Today is a day of reflection. A day of remembering all that it has taken to be here today. The struggles, the sacrifices, the adversity that has led to the successes and rewards you have realized along the way,” Amodeo said. “As the world is truly at your fingertips and the sky is the limit, I look forward to the many great things that you all will accomplish in your futures.”
Jacob Kearney, the Class of 2017 salutatorian, shared his memories from his time at WVCS and encouraged his classmates that no matter where life takes them, to never forget the time in West Valley and remember the many people who helped throughout their time at school.
“Everyone on this stage deserves to be here and whatever the future holds for our lives, we all will remember … and while I’m sure most of you, myself included, are thinking that once we get off this stage today, I’m getting the heck out of here and not looking back. But we really just shouldn’t put our time at this school behind us,” Kearney said. “So while you are sitting in your dorm room in college, working hard at your job or enjoying your opportunities at an internship or apprenticeship, stick to your goals and cherish your memories here at WVCS as you all look to the future.”
Class President Kyle Grzechowiak addressed his classmates as he shared memories about what made the class great and how the close-knit friendships that were made helped make school better for everyone.
“School is fun when you have friends and you can have games and goofs with them and it would just be so boring if we didn’t have any of that,” Grzechowiak said. “In a small school like this, you are pretty close to your friends and have a lot of fun. We have just had so many good memories and had such a great time here and I don’t think I would have been able to make it through without my friends.”
Grzechowiak later introduced the guest speaker, former WVCS teacher and principal Bonnie Smith, who read parts of a letter that she sent to the graduating seniors about how much she and the entire district cares for them and how happy she is to see how much the students have developed their skills to get ready for whatever comes next.
“I’m so very grateful to have been a part of the team that created the challenging yet supportive environment that contributed to helping you navigate through your childhood and adolescence,” Smith said. “I hope that at this important transition time in your life, you take some time to reflect upon the beauty and the value of your educational journey and I also hope you take the time to share your gratitude that you feel with the people who have made the greatest difference in your life.”
After the presentation of awards, Valedictorian Kelsey Chai gave an emotional speech thanking teachers, classmates, family and everyone who helped contribute to her and her classmates success in both school and life.
“I remember being in middle school agonizing over the fact that I had more than eight years of school left to go. On my last day of school just last week, I wish there was just one more day,” Chai said. “To my classmates, know that you have the power to influence other people’s lives … good luck in everything you do and congratulations.”
WVCS Superintendent Eric Lawton and WVCS Board of Education President Steve Kowalski concluded the ceremony by presenting the graduates with their diplomas and officially introducing the class of 2017.
The graduates are: Sharon Bailey, Brandon Blackwell, Chad Boldt, Christian Burdic, Kelsey Chai, Blade Cole, Marisah Croakman, EmmaLea Erlandson, Brenna Green, Kyle Grzechowiak, Seth Howell, Madison Hurtubise, Madison Johnson, Jacob Kearney, Spencer Keller, Monica Kelley, Nick King, Derrick Miller, Sidney Ploetz, Alyssa Przywara, Sydney Shanley, Taylor Smith and Tessa Sullivan.