Clearing a pathway into the real world, 55 Elk Lake seniors gathered as a class one last time Saturday in the school gym.
“Now for the challenge,” principal John Warnero said. “As you move forward in the next chapter of your life, live it with purpose, live it with intent. Realize that what you do and who you engage with will be a part of your world and you theirs. It may be small, it may be monumental, but make your mark.”
“Your teachers have more than prepared you to enter into this next stage of your life,” Superintendent Ken Cuomo said. “Although these past couple of years have been challenging for everyone, you have more than conquered and are a special bunch of Warriors.”
Class President Justice Johnson honored the memory of Ceejay Smith, who passed away in 2017 when the class was in eighth grade. He challenged his fellow classmates to “be like Ceejay.”
“Make someone else laugh, take the time to check up on someone else, be able to make light of any situation,” Johnson said to his classmates. “If everyone were to be more like Ceejay, the world could truly be a better place.”
Looking over at a photo of Smith, Johnson said, “I wish you were here in-person to celebrate this moment with us.”
Valedictorian Jessica Ely talked about how high school showed her what someone chooses to do with his or her abilities is how they separate themselves from everyone else.
She noted how the memories made over the past 13 years will live on forever, establish a legacy and build a foundation for the future.
“When we leave here today, go out and meet new people, establish a legacy in which you spread happiness to those you crossed paths with, be the best version of yourself you can be,” Ely said. “I urge you to reach out and be the person you want to be in other people’s lives.”
To lighten the mood a little bit, Salutatorian Krista Jones took her classmates on a trip down memory lane, talking about some memorable moments the Class of 2022 had experienced together, from field trips, athletic events and even some pranks pulled through the years.
Jones also shared that although this may be the end of an era, when one door closes, many more open.
“No fear, no limits, no excuses,” Jones said. “If we approach the world before us with that attitude, we can achieve anything.”
Having no fear was the message of the keynote address given by Elk Lake High School chemistry teacher Thomas Kotch. He entered the stage with a chimpanzee mask.
“When we navigated this pandemic hidden behind our masked faces, and talked about how events of the past two years have instilled fear it was tough,” he said.
“Living in fear is a sad way to live your life on this planet,” Kotch explained. “We have to take care of each other and find happiness if we’re going to succeed. When you walk out those doors today, find the goodness in people and never forget your roots. If you do that, you’ll all succeed.”
Cuomo offered a reflection noting, that “For the past 13 years, you have all persisted and persevered in school and the world around you. Go out and embrace the changes, and don’t let the relationships of life slip by.”
Elk Lake Class of 2022
Jacob Joshua Adams; Landen LaRue Bennett; Codi James Bomboy; Austin Joseph Bonavita; Angelia Madeline Boner; Tyhler Elizabeth Bray; Mackenzie Paige Brewer; Terrence Arden Brozonis; Nikolas Stevian Canfield; Martin John Cannella; Austin James Dakota Conklin; Kieran Francis Curley; Jenna Eileen Daye; Lily Jean Decker; Cadence Cathrine DeGregory; Luz Maria Diaz Jimenez; Jessica Laura Ely; Truman Kenneth Ely; Francisco Gargia; Trever Lee Graham; Jacob Andrew Gustin; Jacob Scott Hollister; Conner James Hunsigner; Justice Kaleb Johnson; Krista Vicky Jones; Tristan Michael Jones; Noah James Kaulfers; Kelly Larreynaga; Megan Lynn McIntyre; Joseph Gerard Merschen Jr.; Matthew Justin Miller Jr.; Matthew Isaiah Mowry; Jenna Nicole Newhart; Andrea Nieto; Kevin Charles Noldy; Nicholas George Oruska; Marissa Mary Parker; Caden Michael Ramey; Felipa Adriana Ruis; Adam Paul Sekely; Joshua David Sharer; Carli Sara Sheffler Sherman; Noah Michael Silver; Chloe Chaffee Sipe; Erick David Skinner Jr.; Brianna Anne Slover; Jeremiah Joseph Smith; Samuel Malcolm Smith; Todd Michael Snyder; Lily Struzzieri; Sydney Shay Tyler; Tyler Lee Wallace; Nathan Robert Warriner; Reese Patricia Warriner; Bionkiann Marie Wood.