OSWEGO, NY – After 13 years of school, it took less than 30 minutes Saturday to turn 279 OHS seniors into freshly minted graduates.
The forecast for the Class of 2012 is sunny and bright, filled with some rough patches here and there, according to keynote speaker Dave Longley (OHS Class of 1990), chief meteorologist for WSYR News Channel 9 in Syracuse.
Matthew McLaughlin, vice president of the Class of 2012, said he thought graduation day would come … “eventually.”
“The best part is knowing it’s over,” he said, adding, “The worst part is knowing it’s over. It’s bittersweet; I’m excited to be graduating, but I’ll miss (OHS), especially the people.”
Scott Gioia agreed.
“The best part is that I don’t have to go back to school, for classes. The worst part is that I do have to go back to school, because people made me promise I’d visit them,” he said.
Both young men are college bound. McLaughlin is headed to Cayuga Community College while Gioia “is hoping to go to Potsdam.”
“I’m ready to move on,” said Dylon Clew-Thomas. “But I’m going to miss everybody.”
He is headed to Finger Lakes Community College to study graphic arts.
Principal Brian Hartwell welcomed the students to the 156th OHS commencement and thanked them for making Oswego a school of excellence.
“I’m excited for all the kids,” he said prior to the ceremony. “I kind of hate to see them go. But, on the other hand, I’m very proud of them and what they’ve accomplished while at Oswego High School.”
“This is the final appearance of the OHS Class of 2012 (together),” Superintendent Bill Crist pointed out.
Crist congratulated the graduates and thanked all their friends, families, teachers and staff members for their support.
He told the graduates they had much to be proud of and ticked off a brief list of their achievements.
“You are the authors of your destinies and this milestone is simply the beginning,” he said.
“You made it and we are very proud of you,” added John Dunsmoor, school board president. “You students have made Oswego proud. Find something you love to do, take ownership of it and work diligently to be the best.”
Longley observed some familiar faces in the crowd, like his former teacher Mike McCrobie, who is retiring after more than three decades at OHS.
And, the superintendent, a former music teacher, taught Longley how to play the trumpet.
“I sold that trumpet,” he deadpanned.
Pointing out some of his other former teachers in the audience, he said, “I’m 40; how old do you feel right now?”
Graduation is the start of a new chapter in their lives, he told the graduates. They won’t always make the right decisions, but that’s OK, he said.
“No one will make your decision for you. That’s all part of the learning process,” he said.
Everyone has a dream of where they want to be 10, 20 and even 40 years from now, he said.
“Your vision shouldn’t waiver from the goal that you have in mind,” he told the grads. “Don’t look behind you; you can’t change what’s already happened. Promise yourself – don’t settle. Have fun today. Have fun tomorrow. Have fun every day.”
He told the grads to keep looking forward, and keep their peripheral vision sharp.
Salutatorian Victoria Frazier thanked the superintendent, board of education, faculty, family and friends who came out to support the Class of 2012.
“I bet many of you remember attending our sixth grade graduations and freshmen orientation like they were just the other day,” she said. “Now we are all getting ready to embark on a new journey. Whether it takes us to college, a job or the military, we’re definitely in for something new.”
She and her classmates will carry many memories from their time at OHS, she said.
“While each of our memories is unique to our particular experiences, I’m sure many of the same main events will be there. We won’t easily forget how our PowderPuff team won both years or how several of our teams have made it to sectionals and even states throughout the years,” she said.
And most of all, she added, they will never forget the times they have shared with friends “creating memories to last a lifetime.”
She urged her classmates to do what makes them happy; always follow their heart and never forget to pursue their dreams.
“Never give up; you all have it in you to reach your goals. Give life everything you’ve got and like my favorite quote says, ‘Reach for the moon, even if you miss, you will land amongst the stars,’” she said. “We are here to celebrate a goal that we have been reaching for our whole lives: graduating.”
“We have made it. We have finally finished this journey. Now, ready or not, a new one is about to begin. I wish you all luck and hope your lives bring you all that you have dreamed of,” she concluded.
In preparing his comments, valedictorian Ryan Patrick said he found he “had nothing profound to say, nothing life-altering and nothing that is really even very funny.”
But, it did force him to think about all the great things the class has done over the past four years.
“We’ve been part of over 10 teams that have played in state final fours; we have countless sectional titles and wins. We have great musicians, representing us all the way up to a national level. We are going all over the nation for college. We survived a food fight and race war. We’ve had two cafeterias and three principles,” he said listing some of the highlights. “I think that we really have made this Mr. Hartwell’s school of excellence.”
Of course, it hasn’t been all good, he acquiesced.
“It hasn’t been all great during our high school careers. But, but I think that the key to surviving this is having some great friends. So Justin, Mike, Brennon, Dacota and even Sean, I would like to thank you five for being my best bros and getting me through the past four years,” he said.
Everyone in the class has a tight-knit group of friends and “this is our last summer together before our lives change forever. So, just make sure that you enjoy it,” he added.
He encouraged his classmates to take the time to say thank you to the people who supported them during their high school careers.
“None of us have done this on our own; there has always been someone who has been there for you. So sometime before you head out into your next endeavor, take the time to thank them,” he said.
“So class of 2012, this is it. This is really it. We may have new college mascots to be a part of or a career waiting for us right out of high school or some other adventure that we will have to take on. But, I know that I’ll always be a Buccaneer and I hope that holds true to each and every one of you.”
Class president Sarah Gosek summed up the feeling on graduates.
“Whether you’ve been ready for this day since you stepped foot in OHS or you’re the kid that loved every minute of high school; the time is finally here for us to move on,” she said. “But none of us will forget the times we’ve enjoyed here together, the things that will forever bind us to one another – ceteris paribus.”
She told her classmates to challenge themselves to do things and go places that they never imagined they could.
“I hope you remember the good memories and not all the bad when you look back at high school. Because someday you’ll look back and memories are all you’re going to have,” she pointed out. “I hope someday the classes and experiences that made you never want to come back are one day the things that you look back on and laugh at.”