He was all over the place at the graduation ceremony for the Elizabethtown Area High School Class of 2019 as three speakers quoted the 19th century American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson in their speeches.
Superintendent Michele Balliet used the quotation, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”
Terry Seiders, president of the school board, chose the quotation, “What you are afraid to do is a clear indication of the next thing youneed to do.”
And valedictorian Ryan Minnich offered these words from Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Balliet opened the event with a speech that focused on the achievements of the graduating class. She began with academic achievements, noting that 10 students were recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program: two as finalists, three as semifinalists and five as commended students. Seniors led the Brain Busters team that advanced to the finals of the TV quiz show for the first time since 2004, ultimately taking second place in the sudden-death round. The senior class had 60 members of the National Honor Society and 13 members of the National Technical Honor Society. Forty- five seniors were enrolled in the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center earning National Occupational Competency Testing Institute industry certification. There were 89 seniors who earned more than $68,500 in awards and scholarships at the recent senior awards program, Balliet said.
She went on to list the achievements in the arts, not- ing the senior class led the spring musical “Seussical,” which got three awards at the Hershey Theater Apollo Awards, including the top honor of outstanding musical. Multiple seniors got recognition for their musical performances from the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association and the Lancaster- Lebanon Music Educators Association.
In athletics, Balliet noted that three teams (girls cross country, girls basketball and boys tennis) won their Lancaster-Lebanon League section titles, there were two individual qualifications for Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournaments (Cat Shontz in cross country and track), and two seniors (Larry Locker and Marena Lonardi) reached 1,000 career points scored in basketball and were named to PIAA State All-Star teams, among other achievements.
Finally, in altruism, Balliet noted that numerous seniors volunteered in younger grade classrooms and that seniors led the Mini-Thon fundraiser that took in more than $85,000 to fight childhood cancer.
“During your time in the Elizabethown Area School District, it is clearly evident you have demonstrated a significant amount of academic effort, skill, talent, perseverance, grit, determination and resiliency to make a great mark on our schools,” Balliet said.
Seiders focused his address on fear and vulnerability, urging graduates to embrace fear as a sign that they are on the right path.
“I’m here to urge you to tackle fear; I would adamantly push you do dive into vulnerability — head first if necessary. Some, if not many, of you here tonight are probably nervous just hearing this type of advice; the thought of engaging and embracing fear and vulnerability may make you a little nauseous, and hey, I get it. But on the other side of fear, over the hill that is vulnerability, is where joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity and love all reside,” Seiders said.
Maura Hobson, principal of the high school, made reference to the character Thor from Marvel comics.
“When the powerful villian Thanos wiped out half of humanity with a snap of his finger, Thor took it as a personal blow. He failed — critically — and fell into a deep depression as a result. It took a few years and some sage words from his mother to let go of his burdens.
“‘You’re a failure just like everyone else is,’ she said to him.
“She knew that part of growth is overcoming failure. That means we are all failing at all times,” Hobson said.
Hobson went on to say that failure should be seen as an opportunity to learn.
“When we rise up and confront our fears about the future, we are forced to see ourselves for who we really are, instead of who we think we should be. Only then can we really live our lives the way we want to. And happiness? That’s the greatest success of all,” Hobson said.
Salutatorian Adrienne Nolt noted that she was being recognized because “I have some of the intelligence that school assesses, that very specific memorization capacity, and learned the skill of test taking.”
But Nolt said she wants to focus on other qualities she admires in people.
“I want to be more caring and compassionate, like those of you who have helped in the learning support classroom. You spent your valuable time as seniors helping others, completely resisting the urge to get out of this building because your desire to help others was so strong. I want to be more enthusiastic, like the people in student council who continue to plan spirit days, May Days, and so much more when the student body gives you little gratitude and is not enthusiastic in return. I want to be more dedicated to my work, like those who spend tireless hours at sports practices or musical rehearsals simply for your own love of the craft, and not for a grade or academic credit. I want to be more persistent, like some of the English language learners who have learned years and years of English in a matter of months in order to move out of the program entirely,” Nolt said.
Valedictorian Ryan Minnich warned his classmates that the future will be difficult.
“The road that lies ahead won’t be easy. There will be obstacles and missed exits, potholes and roadblocks,” Minnich said. “There will be times when each of us feels like we cannot possibly go on. There will be times when each of us will think we are alone. But the truth is that we are not alone — we are all in this journey together, as a class, but also as a generation. Nothing worthwhile is easy, and that includes making the most out of our futures. But that doesn’t mean we give up on ourselves. We will keep pushing, because we know we can achieve our dreams, and because we are passionate and completely determined to overcome the challenges facing humanity today and in the future.”
Senior speaker Frank Meile used his speech to make reference to the surreal comedy television series “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which began in 1999 and is still airing new episodes.
“Now, SpongeBob failed his driver’s test 1,258,058 times. Now that, friends, is ambition. Everyone appreciates thatcharacteristic in a person. Everyone except for Squidward. But remember, kids: No one wants to be a Squidward. Squidward has no ambition. Sure, he has no talent, either, but it’s his lack of ambition that landed him behind that register,” Miele said.
He went on to urge his classmates to put others first.
“There’s no greater feeling in the world than seeing someone’s eyes light up when you helped them out, especially when they deserved it most. Do that so when you’re on your deathbed, you won’t be the one asking yourself what you did with all those wasted years,” Miele said.