Student speakers at Elizabethtown Area High School’s 2018 graduation urged their classmates not to forget where they came from and to believe in their dreams.
“Graduates, as we move on and up to our different futures, remember your roots in this town, in this school,” valedictorian Erin Kraskewicz said. “When you’re stuck in traffic on your way to work, remember the crossing guard who was extremely talented at making you late in the morning. When you’re grabbing a cup of coffee, remember Folklore with its hipster music and giant Jenga. When you’re celebrating sports team victories, remember how angry the band kids got when we kept getting baby powder on their uniforms at football games. If you’re going on to college, remember that you’ll survive difficult classes because hey, you survived 11th grade chemistry. If you see some Dove chocolate in the store, remember the way the air either smelled like brownies or cow manure depending on the way the wind was blowing. And whenever you’re exploring a new place, remember E-Town’s dangerous backroads and rolling fields of gold. Whenever you can, spare a thought of this town. This is the place we were made.”
Kraskewicz told her classmates that building a better future has a simple starting point.
“The beauty of it is that it’s really quite simple. To even begin fixing the state we’re in, we’ve got to be compassionate,” she said. “Compassion costs nothing and empathy requires no skill. There’s no diploma needed to be understanding, inclusive, and tolerant. Often times, small gestures and kind thoughts can be swept up in the thrum of adult life. But it is those small moments of kindness, of compassion, that make all the difference.”
Hannah Ruby noted that she is from Bainbridge and that the small town is the target of many jokes from larger Elizabethtown.
“Yes, it is true that Bainbridge leans so far right it’s a wonder that buildings don’t don’t collapse,” Ruby said. “We once made it on the national news for our ‘This Is Not a Gun-Free Zone’ signs that terrified criminals and liberals everywhere. Whether or not you agree politically, you cannot deny that Bainbridge has no qualms about standing up for its beliefs. Do not be afraid to do just that. Stand up and speak out, or else the world will turn into those five tortuous minutes of class when the teacher asks a question and refuses to move on until someone answers. Be that someone! Answer the question that keeps class moving, that keeps the world moving. If you become involved in journalism, student government, or even just in class, your voice matters. Use it.”
Ruby singled out Gina Mariani, a township supervisor who heads the summer playground program in Bainbridge that is nearly free of charge to parents.
“I attended this camp when I was little, and Gina has had a crucial role in shaping the young woman you see here today,” Ruby said. “She has taught me many things including the value of honesty and hard work, as well as a life skill that is rapidly disappearing in today’s youth: mental math. Gina is practically an extra parent to all the children of Bainbridge, and we should all take a page out of her book. Remember when you were a freshman, walking the halls of the high school for the first time, terrified of being shoved into a locker? And do you remember the upperclassman who was kind to you and showed you where your classes were? Their kindness meant the world to you in that moment. Reinvest that kindness into every child you meet, because sometimes the littlest people can make all the difference.”
Kayla Grudi displayed a sense of humor as she urged her classmates to remember four rules as they chase their dreams: Have patience, be adventurous, have gratitude and fight for it.
“One of the greatest areas of learning is the school parking lot,” Grudi said. “Ordains with a paw-print covered Bears Parking Pass, it is easy to feel invincible. But, for those of you who have not had the privilege of trying to escape school grounds between 2:40 and 3 p.m., it is an all-out war. You have a long line of pickup trucks, fighting with a very loud Mustang, fighting with a 1926 Model T – all trying to beat the buses. Needless to say, you better have a good playlist on your phone. As trying as this experience could be, the after-school traffic taught us something. Not everything comes right away. Sometimes we have to let others go first in order to go where we want to go.”
She urged fellow graduates to persevere to achieve their goals.
“One of the most memorable achievements was when the boys soccer team went all the way to states,” Grudi said. “During the state qualifying round, the team defended their goal for an entire game before finally winning in penalty kicks. Their determination is proof that sometimes life requires you to break your lines. Do not let fear rule you. Go passionately in the way of your dreams. Commit to your purpose and you can achieve anything.”