UTICA — Graduation is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the best, but at the graduation ceremony for Utica High School, seniors were encouraged to instead look toward the future.
“There’s a good reason they call these ceremonies ‘commencement,’” said Scott Hartley, superintendent of North Fork Local School District. “Graduation is not the end. It is the beginning.”
“I want to remind us that these were not the best four years of our lives,” said salutatorian Greta Buckenberger. “These past four years, and the nine that came before have helped prepare us for what is next.”
Buckenberger’s address was followed by speeches from salutatorian Elizabeth Dyke and valedictorians Trina Orr and Alli Pfister. Garrett Meyers was recognized as this year’s citizenship award winner.
“The past four years have been filled with so many memorable moments and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world,” said Dyke as she thanked her fellow classmates.
Orr encouraged her peers to think of life as a garden in which we can contribute to the growth of other people, while Pfister warned classmates about the trappings of success.
“I hope we all put our best foot forward in everything that we do and do those things well. But not too well, or it may backfire and you’ll be forced to give a speech in front of hundreds of people,” she deadpanned.
Pfister also asked the audience to give a round of applause to all the educators that had influenced the class of 2019 over the course of their time in school.
Commencement speaker Michelle Snow, a 1988 graduate of Utica High School, urged students to surround themselves with positive, supportive people, to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way and to decide for themselves what success looks like and pursue it.
“Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become,” advised Snow. “You are fully prepared for the next chapter of your life. Now it’s up to you to start that chapter.”