After years of schooling, homework, hard work, and early mornings, the senior class of the Fulton City School District finally walked across the stage, accepted their diplomas, and moved their tassels to become full-fledged graduates.
And after leading the senior class academically, valedictorian Caleb Almeter led his fellow graduates through their graduation commencement alongside salutatorian, David Tallents and members of the FCSD board of education, staff and administration.
“When we honor the class of 2016, we are honoring 240ish young adults who are all going their own ways after this,” said Almeter.
The valedictorian left the graduates with words of encouragement, gratitude and individuality.
“We are all going to different places, to live different lives, to make our mark on the world in a different way. The message I want to get across today is that we are individuals, we are all different, and that’s an amazing thing,” Almeter said to his fellow graduates. “As individuals, you’ve each had a different impact on my life, and on each others lives. Congratulations to all of you, and thank you for the last four years.”
Tallents had a similar message to deliver to his fellow graduates in his role of salutatorian.
“Sitting before me are some of the best students, athletes, musicians, and artists G. Ray Bodley has seen in a long time,” he said.
He went on to recap some of the many successes of the GRB graduating class.
“When all is said and done, the class of 2016 built a high school that we can all be proud of. And some day, when someone asks us what we learned during our time here in Fulton we will know what to tell them. We learned how to build a community, we learned how to influence and inspire younger generations to be the best that they can be, we learned how to make a high school realize its full potential. Even after we leave, the legacy of our class will remain,” he said. “My fellow graduates, always remember, never stop being revolutionary.”
After thanking parents, family, administration, and friends, both class leaders set their sights on the teachers that helped the shape the students they had become.
“The teachers I’ve had have all helped me along the way” Almeter said, but more than the textbook material they taught, “you’ve helped all of us become better people,” he continued.
“GRB truly is blessed with an all star cast of teachers,” said Tallents.
One of the teachers included in that “all star cast” is science department chair, Chris Leece who developed a unique relationship with the senior class as his career progressed right alongside them and was chosen by the students to make the ceremony’s opening remarks.
While the class of 2016 entered kindergarten in the year 2003, Leece began his career with the FCSD in 2004. He met the class as they entered the junior high in seventh grade and through eighth grade and then followed them to the high school as he took a new position in the district.
“I’ve literally never known this community without you,” he said to the graduating class. “I’ve watched you grow into outstanding young men and women. I’ve watched you laugh together, I’ve watched you celebrate together, work together, lean on each other in difficult times. I’ve learned from you probably more than all of you have learned from me. You made me a better teacher, a better person by letting me learn with you.”
He went on to advise the grads to continue learning from those around them, older or younger and challenged them to continue to have an impact on everyone in their lives.
Leece told Oswego County Today that it was this group of student’s particular character as a whole that drew such a strong relationship between them as they grew together in school and career.
“It’s the camaraderie, their willingness to let anybody in,” he said of the graduating class.
Much like Leece spoke of the impact left on the community by the graduating seniors, the seniors heard from a district leader whose impact will be remembered as he retires in just one week.
Bill Lynch spoke to the packed auditorium for the last time in his 11 years as Superintendent as both the graduating seniors and Lynch prepared to embark on new life journeys.
“It’s been a wonderful day for the graduates, their families and the district,” Lynch told Oswego County Today.
“There’s been so many great memories and to really see the kids and hear their meaningful words, that’s why I wanted to do this. It’s gratifying to see the immense pride these students have for their school and their home,” he said.
A standing ovation from the massive crowd was the final farewell to Fulton City School District’s long reigning superintendent.
And after a few more speakers and distinguished honors were recognized, the graduating class of 2016 accepted their diplomas and spilled outside to celebrate with family and friends.
“It’s unreal, it really hasn’t hit me yet,” said Jenna Lee, of her new graduate status. Lee plans to fulfill her prerequisites at community college before deciding her next steps.
“I can’t even really describe it, it’s like it’s not real,” said graduate, Tia Rose, who plans to attend Finger Lakes Community College for business administration.
Both Lee and Rose, while excited to tackle their post graduate life are going to miss the friends they made along the way and the interactions they’ve had daily for the past four years.
Fellow graduate, Cheyenne Hotchkiss said she felt relieved to be on to her next phase of school.
Planning to attend OCC for two years and then Oswego State, she would like to become a teacher as inspired by the select teachers she had in high school that truly cared for their students and impacted their lives.
No matter their future plans, be it college, work force, military or any number of options available to the new graduates, the class of 2016 will always have home to look back on.
Leece assured the G. Ray Bodley graduating class of 2016, “Remember this, you may not always live here, but Fulton will always be home. You will be members of the Fulton community and Red Raiders for life.”