The average American life expectancy is 78.2 years.

While the number of years a person lives is important, perhaps even more vital is the quality of that life.

From this day forward, members of the Palmerton Area High School graduation Class of 2010 can begin to shape theirs.

On a picture-perfect day, 133 students took their first step in that direction as part of the 102nd annual commencement exercises held Monday at the high school stadium.

Commencement exercises began with a welcome from class President Ryan Kleintop, who congratulated his classmates on their accomplishment.

"Today is important to everyone for what it symbolizes," Kleintop said. "This day is the pinnacle of 13 or more years of really hard work."

Class Salutatorian Jesse Reis said it took the class 2,345 days to arrive at their ultimate destination.

"High school is such an important time of our lives," Reis said. "It's the best of times, the worst of times."

Reis said it is those life experiences that helped mold each student into the person that they've become.

"Little events or big events are now characterized as high school memories," Reis said. "It's been a pleasure, and I will carry these four years with me for a lifetime."

Class Valedictorian Frank "Jay" Hall told his classmates his message was to reflect on the past, present and future.

"Always remember the unity we have here tonight," Hall said. "It's not a goodbye, just a see you later; one really big see you later."

Hall then focused his speech on a book "Life Expectancy", by Dean Koontz.

"If you have no plans, no goals, just remember that life expectancy isn't how long you live, but how you live," Hall said. "Don't lose sight of what you expect to do in life."

Hall ended his speech with a quote by pioneer missionary William Carey, "Expect great things, attempt great things."

Hall, Danielle Kutz and Kimberly Varano then sang the song, "Seasons of Love".

High school Principal Kathy Egan gave the presentation of the class, and spoke of the "Starfish Story", by anthropologist Loren Eisley.

Egan said the moral of the story is that a young boy throws a starfish into the ocean to make a difference.

"Just as the boy in the story, you can all make a difference," Egan said. "Whatever you decide, your decisions do make a difference."

Superintendent Carol Boyce then offered the acceptance of the class.

School board President Barry Scherer then presented the diplomas to the class.

Scherer then referenced the book, "The Crayon Box That Talked", which was the focus of high school teacher Tammy Wrecker's recent speech during Baccalaureate Services.

"It takes different crayons to make a picture," Scherer said. "Together, you make a beautiful picture."

Scherer then reminded the class of the countless opportunities they will come into contact with.

"America is still the land of many opportunities," Scherer said. "Continue on that relentless path of setting your sights high."

Kleintop offered the acceptance of the class. The class then sang the school's Alma Mater. The ceremony ended with the recessional.