Superintendent Robert Miller welcomed guests to Herkimer High School’s 2019 Commencement in Myers Park under sunny skies on Saturday as the Herkimer High School Jazz Band performed under the gazebo.
Mr. Miller recognized outgoing staff members and board members, and thanked them for their service to the district. Teachers Sarah Schoff of Herkimer Elementary and Alan Steele, Julie Lynn Snyder and Timothy Zaleski of Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School, as well as school lunch aide Sharon Martyniuk, are retiring at the end of the school year. Mr. Miller also recognized elementary special education teacher Karen Ruggiero, who retired earlier in the school year, and outgoing board members Mark Conley and Patricia Giffune.
“We want these graduates to know how proud we are of their accomplishments,” Mr. Miller said, adding that the diplomas graduates would receive “are tickets to a future we can only imagine.”
Read more: High school students honored with awards
Following Mr. Miller’s remarks, the Class of 2019 was escorted into Myers Park by the Mohawk Frasers bagpipe ensemble. As the white- and green-gowned graduates strode across the path, parents and well-wishers streamed from their seats to snap photos and capture video of the moment, pointing and waving at their loved ones as the students passed by.
Mortarboards decorated with flowers, slogans, photos and even a small model bulldozer adorned the heads of the students, along with whimsical, hopeful and inspiring messages.
Once the graduates were in place, senior Christopher Cooley delivered a Jimi Hendrix-style rendition of the National Anthem on electric guitar before the students and guests took their seats.
Principal Mary Tomaso introduced Board President Brian Crandall, who shared his congratulations to the Class of 2019, noting that he has known many of the students since their elementary school days.
Mr. Crandall reminded students not to be afraid of failure, quoting Winston Churchill, who defined success as “going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
“Put yourself out there and grab success,” Mr. Crandall told the grads.
Mrs. McCutcheon introduced the next two speakers, salutatorian Lyndsey Bass and class president Maria Humble. Lyndsey joked about procrastinating as she worked to prepare her speech, and noted how unreal the day felt. She encouraged her fellow graduates to think big.
“We’ll make magic wherever we go”
“Just because we came from a small town doesn’t mean we can’t do something big,” she said, adding, “We’ll make magic wherever we go.”
Class president Maria Humble was emotional as she reflected on the fact that she and her classmates would be saying good-bye to Herkimer High School.
“Even though we are a small class, we left a lasting mark on the school,” she said, describing the Class of 2019 as chaotic and rowdy. But, she said, “we have learned to embrace the chaos.”
Student Council president Johana Humble took the stage next, introduced by Mrs. Jones, sharing her memories of the many events she oversaw during her tenure.
She reminded her classmates that “things never go as you plan, but don’t worry — it usually works out all right.”
Johana also become emotional as she spoke about how endings and next chapters are part of growing up, but ended on a lighter note, reminding her classmates that “We came into this grade loud and crazy — why should our exit be any different?”
Mr. Zaleski introduced valedictorian Patrick Parese, who compared the ups and downs of the past several years to a roller-coaster ride.
“We weren’t always the best behaved, but we had the most fun,” he said of the Class of 2019, noting that it “feels like it was just yesterday we were playing kickball at recess and lining up in the halls — which, by the way, we didn’t like.”
When Mrs. Tomaso took the stage after Patrick’s remarks, she joked that the graduates would have to line up one last time if they wanted to get their diplomas, which the students happily did.
Mrs. Tomaso reminded the Class of 2019 that they made it to graduation because someone along the way believed in them.
“Now it’s time for you to believe in yourself,” she told the students. “After all, you just survived high school.”
After rising to the Alma Mater sung by Austin Reed, and tossing their mortarboards skyward, the seniors once again formed a line, and were led in a recessional by the Mohawk Frasers — their last official act as the Class of 2019.