OSWEGO, NY – After 13 years of school, it took about 28 minutes Saturday to turn the OHS Class of 2014 into freshly minted graduates. At 10:47 a.m., diplomas were received by the first batch of students. The clock above center ice clicked to 11:11 a.m. as Meggie Zhang accepted the final diploma.
Some did backflips on the stage while others took selfies with the principal.
It was the first class to graduate having had the same principal all four years of their high school careers.
Principal Brian Hartwell welcomed the students to the 158th OHS commencement and thanked them for making Oswego a school of excellence.
“I’m excited for all the Class of 2014,” he said. “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 it! This is the final formal appearance of the OHS Class of 2014 (together),” Hartwell pointed out. “You all have represented Oswego High School with class. You have raised the bar higher. Your accomplishments have impressed me; but what is more impressive is your character.”
He congratulated the graduates and thanked all their friends, families, teachers and staff members for their support.
Hartwell encouraged the Class of 2014 to show up for their lives – strive to win each day … “success is yours to go out and get!”
“I’ve been waiting for this day to come. It got here quickly,” Elizabeth Scott said. “It has gone by pretty fast. I am excited to be graduating.”
This fall, she will return to the SUNY Oswego campus – this time as a student.
History was her favorite subject at OHS. However, she plans to major in Human Resource Management at college.
This was the first Oswego graduation for Superintendent Ben Halsey.
There are many symbols of achievement such as caps and gowns, he said as he put on an Oswego Buccaneer cap.
“In public school we’re all family and we all lean on each other,” he said. “You will have the opportunity to wear many symbols of accomplishment in your lifetime.”
He described the gamut of emotions that students were feeling, adding that many were feeling “all of the above.”
He congratulated the students as well as the faculty for the hard work they have done.
“We now have a bond that will last a lifetime. A Buccaneer doesn’t wait for his ship to come in; he swims out to get it,” he said. “I encourage you to go out there and explore the world, learn from it, teach it, take the time to experience its wonder … but please know this – you will always be welcome home.”
“I wish you each success,” School Board President Kathleen Allen told the grads. “Success is more than just your grades. Be honest. Be humble. Be grateful. Be generous and be kind. Make those things be who you are and I promise you, you’ll achieve goodness and success.”
What advice to give to the OHS graduating class of 2014?
That question haunted Valedictorian Nina Alcasid and Salutation Tory Welsch for the last few months. The question was harder than any assignment they’d ever been given in high school.
“Trying to figure out what to say for this speech was definitely a struggle. Initially, I decided that I’d rather take three AP Calc tests,” Welsch said.
So, they went to many people asking for their help and any ideas, Alcasid said, adding, “We even begged a few people to write it for us!”
They did some research and came across certain phrases that many people seem to use at graduation:
“Like – you’ll look back on these days as among the best in your life,” Alcasid said.
“Well isn’t that just depressing? For one, I personally think that kindergarten was way better than these past few years. And anyway, I surely hope all of you have better days to come. Even if high school has been the best of your life, it’s only the best of your life so far!” Welsch said. “We should use these years as a springboard for the future instead of dwelling on the past.”
“Another classic cliché is, shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” Alcasid said.
“Umm… have you ever seen the movie Gravity? If you miss the moon, you will be floating aimlessly in space until you run out of oxygen,” Welsch pointed out. “Don’t shoot for the moon or the stars. Pick realistic attainable goals, unless your goal is to become an astronaut.”
Universal “cheesy” quotes just don’t work for everyone because everyone is different, they told their classmates.
“That’s why we can’t really tell you what is the best advice for graduation. It’s up to each of you to decide who you want to be in the future,” Alcasid said. “Who do you look up to in your lives? Instead of living by the clichés, we can live by the example and little bits and pieces of advice that the best people in our lives share with us.”
They urged the Class of 2014 to “shape yourself around what you enjoy, not around the status quo.”
“There is an infinite amount of knowledge that can be obtained from the new situations you encounter and the people you see every day,” Welsch said. “Everyone’s life experiences make them who they are and give them each special qualities. Basically, it’s not up to us to give you inspirational wisdom from our hearts or anything like that.”
“It’s up to you to go out in the world and find who and what makes you happy and inspires you,” Alcasid added.
The pair thanked their families and all the teachers from preschool all the way to this year who have helped them along the way.
“We would also like to recognize the people who aren’t usually recognized – the orchestra back there!” Welsch said gesturing to the Oswego High School Student, Faculty and Alumni Ceremonial Orchestra (Cheryl Rogers, conductor) in the back of the arena. The crowd responded with a hearty ovation.
She added a caveat for the grads, “As Mr. Mirabito always says, don’t treat college as a four-year party with a $100,000 cover charge!”
“The true meaning of the word valedictorian is not the person who is at the top of the class,” Alcasid explained. “Instead, the word literally means ‘to say farewell.’”
“Right now we’re all in the same boat; the future is mysterious, exciting, and scary. Rather than advice, we want to leave you today with our best wishes for the future,” Welsch added.
“Congratulations, Class of 2014!” they shouted in unison.
“Today is an incredibly special day for the graduating seniors of Oswego High School, and I would like to thank all of you for sharing it with us,” said Molly Malone, president of the Class of 2014.
It is a day of mixed emotions for every person in this arena, she said.
“The graduates are either incredibly sad to be leaving, or extremely excited to be going on to bigger and better things. Most of us have attended Oswego High School since freshmen year. While it may be scary to leave, just imagine the new chapter of our life that is beginning,” she said.
“Our parents, well I’m not sure how everyone else’s are feeling, but mine have already started picking out new paint colors for my room! I’m just kidding of course, but I am certain that our parents and loved ones are incredibly proud of us, and look forward to the accomplished and successful adults that we will become,” she continued. “Let’s not forget to thank them for all they have done for us over the years, and will most likely continue to do.”
The class is the first class that has had Mr. (Brian) Hartwell as principal for all four years, she noted.
As a class, they have had members in the All American Marching band, produce an award-winning newspaper, put an incredible amount of hard work into the school’s yearbook, excel at sports, participate in the schools plays and musicals, create amazing pieces of award winning artwork, and travel to far away destinations.
She said she is certain the accomplishments of the class will not be forgotten.
And she’s “incredibly proud” of all they’ve done in their four years of high school.
She went on to thank her family (especially her parents), her friends for always being there to make sure she didn’t take everything so seriously and to make sure she steps out of her comfort zone once in a while. Also, she thanked all of the class advisers she’s had since freshmen year.
“Class advisers truly don’t get enough credit on a daily basis. The amount of work that they do behind the scenes is monumental. They are always there to help the officers with tasks if needed,” she said. “Without them my four years as president would not have been so successful and smooth. Mr. Hartwell also deserves a big thank you. He has helped and guided the class for four years and allowed us to participate in many events.”
She told her classmates don’t be afraid to go on to the next chapter of their lives, whatever it may be.
“Excel in everything that you set your mind to. Who knows where we may be in a few years or what we will be doing. Just remember where you came from,” she said. “In closing, I would like to applaud the Class of 2014. We should all be incredibly proud of ourselves. Have fun and be safe next year. Congratulations class of 2014, we finally made it!”