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Sullivan West grads say goodbye

By Melissa Goggin
June 27, 2012

Hundreds of relatives, friends and faculty members packed into the gym at Sullivan West Central High School (SW) to celebrate the accomplishments of the 100-plus graduates who successfully completed the final year of their high school careers. The Class of 2012 Commencement Ceremony was a very successful event on that flowed smoothly and had some pleasant surprises along the way.

The ceremony began with the processional “Pomp and Circumstance” and the National Anthem played by the Sullivan West High School Concert Band, directed by Ross Reynolds, and the Pledge of Allegiance led by the Class Vice-President Kassie Thelman. This was shortly followed by the graduating seniors from the Sullivan West Senior High School Concert choir, directed by Jerry Hoch, singing the graduation classic “Seasons of Love” from Rent.

After the performance, welcomes were administered by the soon to be retired superintendant Dr. Kenneth H. Hilton. He stressed the values of hard work and diligence and said life-long education is vital to success in our current economic situation. He ended his remarks with the proverbial words, “Be well, do good work and stay in touch.”

Early on in the ceremony, the audience was introduced to the person who received the very first official Sullivan West diploma. The diploma was presented at a board meeting on July 26, 2001 but the recipient did not look as if he graduated just 11 years ago. In fact, he was supposed to graduate in the Narrowsburg class of 1944. Paul Yonchek was a hard working student well on his way to graduating when, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was forced to leave school at the age of 16 and fight for the country. After the war, he returned to his home town, attended night classes and earned his GED. Then, in 2001, he was finally awarded the diploma he worked so hard and long for as a part of “Operation Recognition.”

Yonchek’s great grandson Michael Feigenbutz was one of the students who graduated with the Sullivan West Senior Class this year and his pride for his great-grandfather was shown when he gave him a hug after he was called to receive his diploma.

Next in the ceremony, the co-salutatorians Shawn Bailey II and Jeff Yeung gave a speech together. They were full of words of encouragement for their fellow graduates. Despite the humor incorporated into the speech, there were many heart-felt stories and final send-offs. Bailey closed with words his grandmother shared with him growing up. He urged, “Make new friends, keep the old. Some are silver, the others are gold. Be a golden friend. ”