OSWEGO, NY – After 13 years of school, it about 26 minutes Saturday to turn the OHS Class of 2013 into freshly minted graduates.
Time, it seemed, was the common denominator for many on Saturday. For retiring superintendent Bill Crist, is was a case of back to the future.
Senna Handley said she didn’t think graduation day would ever arrive.
But now that she was about to receive her diploma, she said she was “pretty excited. I’m ready to go.”
Tyler Shfffield said he was anxious to graduate as well. But admitted it was somewhat bittersweet also.
“I’m excited. I will miss all my friends,” he said.
Geoffrey Whiting moved to Oswego from England a while back.
“It’s pretty cool to be graduating in Oswego,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
Principal Brian Hartwell welcomed the students to the 157th OHS commencement and thanked them for making Oswego a school of excellence.
“I’m excited for all the Class of 2013,” he said prior to the ceremony. “I’m sad to see them go. But, I’m also very proud of each of them and what they’ve accomplished while at Oswego High School.”
“This is the final formal appearance of the OHS Class of 2013 (together),” Superintendent Crist pointed out.
He congratulated the graduates and thanked all their friends, families, teachers and staff members for their support.
“The identity of who you are, and who you will ultimately become, the legacy of what you will leave when that journey is completed, will begin when you exit this room today,” he told the almost grads.
“Quite a few years ago, actually in the year of our country’s bicentennial, I was sitting where you sit in a similar ceremony receiving my diploma from Oswego High School. Although I was pondering the next steps in my life, I was more immediately wondering, when is this guy going to sit down!?? So I’ll Be Brief!” he quipped.
He challenged the Class of 2013 to be prepared … for change, for sacrifice and to battle adversity.
“As a product of this school district, I must say that although I felt prepared for the next chapter in my life; although I had goals and aspirations, I couldn’t have imaged at that time if the speaker on that date would have said that one of us in the class of 1976 would one day be the superintendent of schools of this alma mater, I wouldn’t have dreamed on that day that it would be me,” he said.
“Take advantage of opportunity and believe that you can do things that others may not believe you can accomplish. Don’t allow negativity to influence a direction that you believe can be achieved. Be confident of yourself, continue to learn, and continue to strive to be the very best you can be every day,” he concluded. “If you can dream it, you can do it. So, I say…Dream Big!”
Sarah Mancuso, salutatorian, noted that her high school career went by in the blink of an eye.
“It’s hard to believe that these years have gone by so quickly. Looking back, I still remember our first day of high school like it was yesterday,” she said. “Somewhere along the line, I blinked, and freshman year was over. Sophomore year began, I blinked, and that too was over. Junior year rolled around, and before I knew it, I blinked and that was gone as well. Senior year came, and I knew I had to stop blinking and make some pretty important decisions.”
She recalled that at her preschool graduation ceremony, she and her classmates dressed up in costumes of what they wanted to be when they grew up.
As they went through school, those visions became more specific.
“Our perspectives in preschool came from what we thought we wanted to be when we grew up. Now, we tend to think in terms of what we think we can become,” she noted. “Graduation provides us with an opportunity for a fresh start.
Some would say we’ve made it. But, I say this is just the beginning.”
“You never know what you’re capable of until you try, and you can’t finish anything without first starting it. Set goals with the imagination of the dreamers we once were, work hard to achieve those goals, and enjoy the future you once only dreamed of,” she told her classmates.
“It should be clear to many that not all the lessons we’ve learned over the years were taught to us in the classroom; some of the most significant knowledge and wisdom has been acquired without the walls of Oswego High School,” Valedictorian Tory Jaskula said. “What’s truly prepared us for the long journey ahead have been the lessons we’ve learned about life, about others, and about ourselves.”
“It’s easy to overlook, to forget that one is not the only person struggling, trying to find one’s way, trying to solve one’s problems. The sooner we can recognize this fact – the sooner we can understand that everyone has their own conflicts and convictions – the sooner we can begin to work together towards a common goal of acceptance, peace and cooperation,” Jaskula continued. “I implore you to try – to make some attempt – not to defy, but to question the information which you absorb, and even that which you already possess. Sift out that which doesn’t reason, that which is based on a straw foundation.”
The valedictorian urged the Class of 2013 to “begin making significant choices.”
“Among your numerous decisions, allow yourselves to choose your own guiding philosophies, to hold your own beliefs and not simply those of some other entity. This, in conjunction with an earnest understanding and appreciation of others, is what might allow us to create a world more open to the necessary change of the future,” Jaskula concluded.
“Ever since we were old enough we were waiting for the next big thing to happen in our lives, our first day of school, moving to the middle school, being a freshmen, getting our driver’s license, become an adult and finally making the first big decision on what you are going to do for the rest of your life. We all say the phases ‘I cannot wait until…’ or “I wish I could fast forward to…’ I know I said I couldn’t wait for graduation hundreds of times, but now that I’m here, I wish I could go back,” Lauren Peel, Senior Class President, said.
People get so caught up in the big things that are going to happen that they forget to fully enjoy and appreciate the ones that are happening now, she added.
“I can’t even count the number of opportunities I wish I had taken advantage of. Whether you realize it or not, you only get one shot and there is so much life has to offer you,” she said. “So my advice is to take each day as it comes and stop wishing for another day because right now this moment is important.”
The class president also had some words of wisdom for the underclassmen in the audience.
“Enjoy every second of your high school experience,” she told them. “I promise you won’t realize how fast it goes by until it’s too late. Make it count and make it yours.”
“You made it and we are very proud of you. Your time is limited. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out the sound of your own voice,” 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.”
“Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,” Jackson Banta said in summing up the philosophy of the graduates.