“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” were the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and were quoted by valedictorian Mikaela Balsano at the Eldred High School graduation ceremony. The 48 graduates of the Eldred Central School District walked fearlessly to receive their diplomas at the commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 22. The ceremony was held at the high school, outside on the front lawn in the bright early-morning sunshine.
After the soon-to-be graduates took to the stage to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the Eldred Junior Senior High School Band and Chorus performed a lovely rendition of the national anthem.
The welcome address was given by salutatorian Anja Loughman, who provided the cover artwork for the commencement program and will attend Binghamton University. She spoke about the quintessential high school experiences, like dancing at the high school prom and participating in senior week. She left her fellow classmates with the following advice: don’t meet expectations. She said this may sound strange, but went on to explain that instead of following the expectations that others have for you, like your parents or your peers, you should follow your own dreams.
After her speech, the guest speaker, Eldred graduate and New York State Assemblyman Ray Walter, delivered the address. He joked that he was sitting in the seniors’ positions “25 years and 25 pounds ago,” and how all he remembered from his guest speaker’s speech was that it was very long, and promised to keep his brief. He also gave the advice to the graduates, but also to the audience, that it is okay to take the many paths that life offers. As an example, he said that when he was married and had his first child he decided to go to law school. He said the decision was difficult to make, considering he was already on a set track. He said not to be afraid to change your path, and that you can start anew at any time in your life.
Next came the valedictory speech from Balsano, who will attend Grove City College, a Christian liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. She talked about fear, and urged her fellow classmates that no matter where they were headed next—college, the military or the workforce—to do so without fear.
Where the graduates are headed next is varied. Some are attending college, with many going to Sullivan County or Orange County community colleges, others are attending state universities or private institutions, a few are going into employment and one, Logan Raush, will join the United States Navy.
Many students received scholarships, with some students receiving multiple ones. The scholarships were presented by high school principal Scott Krebs and guidance counselors Kimberly Gueren and Michelle Galo.
After the scholarships were given, the big event—the presentation of diplomas—began, presented by honored teacher and president of the Eldred Board of Education, Douglas Reiser. One by one the students walked to receive their diplomas, and returned to their seats as official high school graduates. Each student was met with applause and shouts of encouragement.
The students walked down the stage and through the aisle during the recessional, ready to begin their next phase of life—fearlessly.