Panther Valley High School's 46th commencement brought a return to an old tradition, as well as the start of some new traditions.
High School Principal Joseph Gunnels welcomed the graduating seniors and their friends and families to the Panther Valley Stadium. "This is the first time since 1983 that we've held the ceremony outdoors," he said, prior to the ceremony.
Gunnels explained that this year's ceremony would also include a faculty processional, leading the students into the stadium. "This signifies the bond between the teachers and students and celebrates the dignity of the teaching profession," he said. Finally, at the close of the ceremony, each of the graduates would cross over a giant panther paw painted on the field, continue past the coal monument and the flags representing each of the four towns of the Panther Valley, and into the end zone, where as a final act of camaraderie, they would participate in a cap toss.
Class president Jason Harrison welcomed everyone to the ceremony and added a few reflections on his four years at Panther Valley High School. "Being known as a quiet class, I hope my words speak for each of my classmates sitting here before you in this stadium and that our actions have spoken louder than our words," he said. "A big step has been taken today, and even bigger steeps lay upon the horizon," he concluded. "I wish everyone exceed high above his or her own expectations and goals."
Nicollette Schietrum then provided the salutatory address, reflecting on two important lessons that she learned in the past seventeen years. "Lesson one, you can be whatever you want to be. And lesson two, we are the future," she said. "I encourage my fellow students to live out your dreams and follow your hearts in order to discover what awaits you at the end of the road." Quoting Henry David Thoreau, she added, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you always imagined." "I encourage you to never dream small, and never back down from the challenges that life throws your way."
Valedictorian Kayla Nunemacher took a few moments to reflect on the achievements of the Class of 2010. "We lifted our middle school's PSSA scores to new heights, made it to the District playoffs in football for the first time in a decade, won a Scholastic Scrimmage meet for the first time ever, and inspired a book," she said, referring to the book, "The Next Great Class Freshman Year", penned by Panther Valley middle school teacher and coach Mark Lavine. Nunemacher expressed confidence that the graduates would do well as they continued on their adventure through life. "I know that no matter what any of you do, you will all be successful because of what lies within you," she said. "Our class has been destined for greatness. We are the people that will change the world." Nunemacher closed by thanking the families and friends of the graduates for their support, her teachers, including class advisors Mrs. Zuber and Mr. Morgans, and Principal Gunnels.
Superintendent Rosemary Porembo addressed the seniors, sharing some insights from Professor Randy Pausch's book, "The Last Lecture." After summarizing several of the chapters and their lessons, Porembo left the students with four main points. "Number one, critics are often people who love you the most. When people stop pushing, they stop caring. Number two, people are more important than objects," she continued. "Number three, adjust your thinking and your attitude so that you can achieve your dreams. Number four, experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." "People say that opportunity only knocks once," she added," but this is not true. Opportunity knocks all of the time. You must be ready to answer the call."
Class president Jason Harrison then passed the colors to Dylan Smith, the president of the Class of 2011. Smith promised to uphold the traditions of the black, gold, and white and wished the graduating class the best of luck. Porembo and school board president Jeff Markovich presented the seniors with their diplomas.