Burgettstown graduates ready for ‘next chapter

BURGETTSTOWN – Despite gray skies, the Burgettstown High School Class of 2013 held commencement Thursday at First Niagara Pavilion.

Class Secretary Michaela Gerace gave the invocation.

“We are about to embark on the next chapter of our life story,” she said.

Class President John Dugas also briefly addressed the class, reminiscing about the many years they had spent together, engaging in sports, academics and arts. He noted they spent their freshman year trying to acclimate themselves to the high school routine.

“We rolled our eyes when seniors told us to treasure our time together,” he said of their sophomore year.

As juniors, they saw their senior friends experiencing their “last times” and graduating, realizing that their time together was coming to a close, he said.

“What we never thought was possible four years ago is now reality,” Dugas said.

He thanked the graduates’ families, teachers and coaches for their life lessons and encouragement to reach their full potential.

“Never take the path of least resistance, and keep your feet on the ground while reaching for the stars,” said Principal David Palmer.

Palmer said the graduates they each have the potential for greatness and, although they would be unable to completely avoid adversity, their reactions to it would show their true character.

“Class of 2013, we are very, very proud of you,” said Palmer. “Never forget you’re a Blue Devil and you always have a home here.”

In his address, valedictorian Aidan Walsh said he struggled to write a speech which could sum up all that the class had experienced together.

“We’re a class that truly shines,” he said, noting classmates’ achievements in academics, arts, sports and community service.

He advised his classmates to seek happiness, open themselves to new people and new experiences and face life with a positive attitude, no matter where it takes them – secondary education, military service or employment.

“Never settle for less than you deserve,” he said.

Walsh counseled his classmates to make “small gestures – say ‘hello,’ not ‘goodbye,’ and ‘yes,’ not ‘no.’

“The world is waiting to teach us,” he said.

He also thanked the graduates’ parents and teachers and school administrators for their support, influence and inspiration.

“I will not soon forget the days we shared,” he told his classmates. “To quote the Beatles, ‘I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello.’ Everyone, say hello to the Class of 2013.”

Salutatorian Corrina Tender spoke, saying that over the previous 18 years, she and her classmates had been guided by parents and teachers, but now they will face things from job interviews to paying taxes on their own. She told her classmates they will face adversity, but they can adapt and move on and she is confident they all have the potential for success.

“I wish the best of luck to all of my classmates,” she said.

Superintendent Deborah Jackson gave brief remarks, telling the graduates commencement is the end of a 13-year journey they began in kindergarten with excitement and trepidation, and in which they had met new friends and teachers who became part of their lives.

Jackson added the school’s goal was to give them an educational basis so that no door would be closed to them.

Nicole Stewart gave the benediction, thanking those who had contributed to the graduates’ success and advising her classmates to meet adversity head on.

“We will not let you down,” she said.