FULTON, NY – Along with G. Ray Bodley High School seniors, a 93-year-old war veteran and a senior staying at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital while undergoing chemotherapy treatment are among Fulton’s class of 2018 graduates.
Fulton City School District administration first presented World War II veteran Norman Smith with an honorary high school diploma at a ceremony at St. Luke’s Nursing Home.
Surrounded by family and friends, Smith realized a dream that was long overdue since the abrupt end to his high school career with the Fulton City School District 75 years ago.
Smith was sent to war with the United States Navy the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Rather than graduating with his peers, Smith instead became a hero for his brave efforts in the South Pacific, saving the lives of his fellow comrades.
At 93-years-old, he added high school graduate to his admirable list of accomplishments.
The following day, the G. Ray Bodley High School senior class realized the same achievement.
A packed arena was led through the ceremony’s opening remarks from GRB chemistry teacher Robert Morse, followed by congratulations from FCSD Superintendent Brian Pulvino, the Salutatorian Address from Madison Lang, and the Valedictorian Address from Jacob Geitner before the students received their diplomas and moved their tassels to become full-fledge graduates.
As students and families spilled from the arena in celebration, FCSD administration took another trip to present a diploma at a surprise graduation ceremony.
Alicia Carroll, a G. Ray Bodley honor student graduating with a Regents Diploma with advanced designation was unable to walk at graduation due to chemotherapy treatment at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse.
As her name was read aloud at the graduation ceremony, applause thundered through the arena in support even in her absence.
While Carroll’s battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma may have halted her opportunity to walk the stage with her peers, her hard work did not go unrecognized as district administrators surprised Carroll and her family with her own bedside graduation ceremony at the hospital.
Carroll added high school graduate to her list of accomplishments and was even able to add one more amazing feat in the same day: ringing the bell to signify her final chemotherapy treatment.
Chosen to speak the opening remarks for the class of 2018, Robert Morse shared a speech with several tokens of advice to resonate with all G. Ray Bodley graduates, young and old.
He advised his students: do not be sheep, do not fear failure, respect your uniqueness and the uniqueness of others, take a piece of each teacher and cement them together, appreciate the sacrifices made to allow your freedom, do not ask more from others than you are willing to give yourself, be a good leader, control your own destiny, and lastly, aspire to create a society whose ideals are contagious.
“As previous generations have, you will face challenges that never before existed. It will only be by embracing and respecting the uniqueness of nearly every member of humanity that you will be able to overcome these challenges. In conclusion, I charge you, the class of 2018, with the daunting but rewarding task of making America greater,” Morse finished.
Class of 2018 Salutatorian Madison Lang, while writing her speech the night before graduation, came across some guidance from others that she felt fitting for her fellow classmates.
Quoting Steve Jobs and GRB math teacher Susan Ryan, Lang encouraged her classmates to always remain true to themselves and to be open minded to cultures and lifestyles unlike their own.
“It’s been a fun ride. I’ll always cherish the classes we shared, the lessons we learned, and the memories made. Now go out there class of 2018 and make more memories. I look forward to hearing some crazy stories at our class reunion in ten years,” Lang said.
Followed by the Class of 2018 Valedictorian, Jacob Geitner also shared some words of wisdom from those he considers influential figures including former president Barack Obama, musical artist Kanye West, and poet Dylan Thomas.
“Moving forward, I hope you are all able to combine the principles of these three quotes. For each and every one of you, I wish the perfect balance of Obama’s elegance, Kanye’s confidence and Thomas’ spirit,” he said. “Congratulations Class of 2018, may we fly forever.”
Geitner led his classmates through the moving of the tassels as the class of 2018 said their final farewell as students of G. Ray Bodley High School.