Herkimer Class of 2017 embarks on next adventures

The day was glorious – blue sky, light breezes and smiling faces everywhere – as 80 Herkimer students tossed their caps in the air and jubilantly celebrated their successful completion of high school.

Their graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 24, took place in Myers Park in downtown Herkimer, with family and friends, teachers and school staff in attendance to wish them well as they embark on new adventures.

Before the ceremony began, members of the Herkimer High School Jazz Band kept the crowd entertained until the graduating seniors began their processional, preceded by the Mohawk Frasers bagpipe ensemble. Graduating senior Brandan Parks sang the National Anthem.

“This is a symbolic event,” said Superintendent Robert Miller in his welcoming remarks to the students. “You are one step closer to adulthood, with all the freedoms and responsibilities that entails.”

Board of education member Brian Crandell spoke of success and failure, reminding those assembled that Thomas Edison took 1,000 tries to get the light bulb right. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison has been quoted as saying. “The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Principal Mary Tomaso served as master of ceremonies, reminding the graduating students that they were in the very first first-grade class she ever taught when she began in the district as an elementary school teacher. “You can wear hats and wear your backpacks wherever you want now,” she told them with a smile.

As has become an honored tradition for Herkimer’s graduation ceremonies, the students selected to speak during the program each chose a favorite teacher to introduce them. Class president Morgan Nichols chose music teacher John Krause to introduce her, while Student Council president Elise Davis selected health teacher Glenn Manning. Class salutatorian Angelica Huhko chose library media specialist Susan Scheu, and valedictorian Catherine “Cassie” Pontius selected senior class advisor Kristin Smith.

Also honored with an honorary diploma was Franca Wandell, retiring after 4 decades working in the high school office.

While each speaker wove in his or her own personal stories and memories of life at Herkimer High School, a common theme emerged: Honor the past, embrace the future, and never let perceptions of failure get in the way of aiming for the moon.

“Don’t be afraid of what comes next,” Morgan Nichols told her classmates during her prepared remarks. “Make your own path to happiness.”

After all the diplomas had been distributed and the ceremony was winding down, Morgan sang Herkimer’s Alma Mater to her classmates and their guests. And as Principal Tomaso declared them graduates, the 80 members of the Herkimer Class of 2017 tossed their caps in the air, hugged and cheered, before joining their families and friends to celebrate the end of their childhoods and their futures not yet written.

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