Impressive stats, moving speeches and messages of hope mark 2018 commencement

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One hundred and twenty seven graduates, 1,379 college credits earned, more than $1 million in scholarships and awards, and 1,000 hours of community service — that’s the Broadalbin-Perth High School Class of 2018.

But they’re way more than just numbers. As Principal Mark Brooks said in his speech at the annual Commencement ceremony at Patriot Field on Friday, the graduates are actors who performed in drama productions such as “Bring It On” and “Shrek.” They’re tremendous musicians and award-winning artists. They’re athletes, like the track and field team members who performed at states this spring.

“They’ve represented B-P in a way that, even though we’re a small school, we have a worldwide reach,” Brooks said. He listed accomplishments of students who attended the national Kid Wind turbine competition in Anaheim last year; graduate Brooke McClarren, who competed with the B-P robotics team at a global competition in Detroit; and numerous students in the CyberPatriot cybersecurity challenge who were top performers in the state.

“The talents are limitless in this group,” Brooks said. “It’s cool to see how education has changed them.”

In her speech, valedictorian Jessie Brooks told her peers that she sees their potential. She sees future “fantastic photographers, sophisticated lawyers, passionate leaders, skilled musicians, a brilliant architect, quick-witted FBI agents, caring nurses and doctors, and so, so much more.”

Her advice to the graduates was to hold on to everything they’ve learned at B-P in the last 13 years and to be brave when dancing to the beat of their own drums.

“Sometime between the time we arrived on this earth, and the time we go, there will be a reason that we were alive that we may never know,” she said. “What if there is someone in our class who is going to develop a cure for diabetes? Or become the next J.K. Rowling? What a shame it would be if we didn’t fulfill our untapped dreams because we were too cowardly to put ourselves out there.”

Class of 2018 salutatorian Matthew Hinderliter talked about the life lessons he learned during his time at B-P, including the value of hard work. He remembered his first day of football practice, weighing in at 110 pounds “with only dreams of playing on Friday nights.” But through hard work, he earned a starting position his senior year. He said the same story of perseverance could be told by drama club members and student musicians.

“The B-P school district and community as a whole gives you every opportunity to succeed if you are willing to put in the work that goes along with it,” he said. “Myself and many others have taken advantage of these opportunities and used them to achieve our goals. Everyone has a different set of skills and learning style, but it was through hard work and perseverance that we made it this far.”

Graduate Katrina Costanzo urged her peers to stay positive and to never give up, reminding them that there is always someone to ask for help. She bravely shared her struggles with depression throughout high school, but credited her teachers with saving her and giving her the confidence she needed.

“It’ll feel like a boulder in your path,” she said. “But if high school taught me one thing, it’s that there’s always a way around. There’s always someone to lean on, someone to help move that boulder, or someone whose shoulders you can climb on to keep moving. Appreciate these people and what they do for you. Don’t wait, tell them how they have helped you and how they have made you see how much better you can be.”

Board of Education President Ed Szumowski and Superintendent of Schools Stephen Tomlinson also gave speeches. Tomlinson read yearbook quotes that were selected by several graduates for their senior quotes. He challenged those graduates who picked them to stand as he read them.

“I didn’t write this speech — all of you did,” Tomlinson said. “I simply put your words in the context of my final message to you as you embark on your journey beyond Broadalbin-Perth. My words don’t mean anything, but your words mean everything.”

Some of the quotes that drew reactions from the crowd were:

  • “Welcome to the real world. It sucks, but you’re going to love it.”
  • “Everything will be OK in the end. And if it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”
  • “You got enemies? Good. That means you actually stood up for something.”
  • “Once the game of life is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.”

Other highlights of the program were:

  • The Pledge of Allegiance was led by graduates who are enlisting in the U.S. armed forces or ROTC programs — Lucas Coon, Anthony Gillotti, Austin Mulvena, Evan Smith, Andrew Syzdek and Chris Wagner.
  • Graduate Michaela Kilburn performed the Sarah McLachlan song “I Will Remember You” in memory of classmate Melissa Jones.
  • Jessie Brooks, Jason Lin, Lexus Makarowsky and Carley Nolan presented the class gift: A gas grill for future barbecues and teacher appreciation lunches, such as the one hosted annually by the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society.