Elk Lake High School sent 92 graduates out into the world Saturday morning, but not before arming them with helpful advice and some homespun wisdom.
Class President Kaylee Eckert welcomed her peers to the stage, and thanked those in attendance for sharing their “great day.”
“We have spent years together, creating friendships, gaining knowledge and deciding what we want to do with our lives,” she said, noting they were based on two things: “perceptions” and “how we handle the circumstances of our lives.”
Salutatorian Dakota ‘Cody’ Oswald told his class “I could never be more proud of the people I’m walking the stage with today” and offered three simple pieces of advice: “Never take anything for granted”... “Don’t look back with fear of regret” ... and “Stay humble as humility is a virtue.”
Valedictorian Eliza Bosscher said that her classmates “truly display the kindness and acceptance that our world so desperately needs.”
She added, “We are not all best friends. However we are all friends and we know that if we need help the person sitting beside us will be there.”
Bosscher quoted her grandfather, veteran veterinarian Bryan Lee of Tunkhannock, as helping her at a young age to see the realities of life when one of her animals would get sick.
“Well it’s either gonna live or it’s gonna die,” she recalled him saying matter-of-factly, and the audience breaking out in laughter.
Bosscher explained that he was “inadvertently teaching me that it is not my job to resent what I cannot control... what we can control is how we treat those around us and how we present ourselves.”
She added, “Live your life according to what you want, and don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Principal Brian Mallery told the audience that 33 - or a little over a third of the class - would be going on to a 4-year college, 23 would be going to a 2-year-program or technical training, 34 would be entering the workforce, and two would be entering the nation’s military.
After acknowledging and thanking the veterans in the audience for their service, Mallery noted that two of the graduates - Makayla Cole and Cody Chandler - would each be going into the U.S. Army and “will be helping protect our great country.”
Mallery introduced the teacher selected by the class as the one they wished to give the commencement address: Louise Hicks, whom for 32 years has been teaching kindergarten at the Dimock school.
“I’ve known many of you since you were five,” she smiled, and a few which she just met when the senior class did a walk through of the elementary school for one last time a week ago.
“Gosh, I remember how happy you were when you lost your first tooth, and even happier when a tooth fairy decided to leave you some money,” she laughed.
She acknowledged that she had received some help from others in the school district to make cutouts of what the students looked like when they were of kindergarten age, and if they reached under their chairs they could lift them up and clutch them.
“Those faces are priceless,” Hicks said recalling Eckert early on showing a heart of gold through her smile and recalling Oswald offering words of encouragement to the teacher when his kindergarten class got out of hand.
“Please,” she said, “take those face pictures as a reminder of how far you have come.”
She pulled out a children’s book, ‘All I Am,’ which essentially had 40 or so different characters that children might dream about being such as a dancer or stargazer. She turned from behind the podium to read from it to the class and when she arrived at the end said, “This is the last page. The last chapter is up to you.”
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think,” she quoted Christopher Robin from the Winnie the Pooh series of books by A.A. Milne.
“Famous philosophers never had anything over Christopher Robin, I’ll tell you,” she laughed.
But then she got serious telling the class to forego doing some things just because of the instant gratification with an indirect reference to texting and e-mailing. “Please don’t do things focused on the immediate return to see if it’s on Facebook or how viral a text posting has gone. Do it because it makes you feel genuinely good.”
Quoting the late Martin Luther King, she said, “Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve.”
She continued in King’s words, “You don’t need to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
With that she closed, “Remember Ms. Hicks will always love you. Best wishes Class of 2018.”
Superintendent Kenneth Cuomo said hers was a hard act to follow but he proceeded with some tips of his own followed by the conferral of diplomas assisted by school board members.
He acknowledged the class motto: “Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.”