A total of 147 Northern Lehigh High School students received their diplomas on Friday as rainy weather moved the 123rd annual commencement exercises indoors to the high school gymnasium.
Led by band director David Carroll, the Northern Lehigh Concert Band performed the recessional march, followed by the singing of the national anthem by senior choir members.
Principal Robert Vlasaty told the students they are about to enter adulthood, and with it comes very important responsibilities and demands.
He then urged the students to take what's inside of them and use it now and throughout their lives.
Class President Jessica Pavolko quoted Author Carl Bard, who once said, "Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending".
She then told her fellow classmates "this is now our chance to go forward and make the changes we want to in our lives."
Salutatorian Kendra Smith based her speech on the original movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".
As the story goes, Smith said Mr. Wonka announces that five special golden tickets are located in the wrappings of five chocolate bars, and the people of the world go into a frenzy in a desperate search for the "Golden Tickets" that will give them access to the chocolate factory that no one has entered in years.
Smith said "throughout high school, I think we all are searching in a similar way to figure out what our purpose is."
"From the time we start school people ask us, what do you want to be when you grow up? I think we all have been frantically searching for the answer to this question, just like the people of little Charlie Bucket's world searched for those golden tickets. High school is a time for all of us teenagers to figure out what this big thing called life is all about. High school is a time for realizing who we are and who we want to be."
Smith again drew a parallel from the movie to that of the students and their journey.
"These last four years with all of you, or in other words, the trip through the chocolate factory, has been wonderful, but it is time for us to move on to our next adventure," she said. "This commencement signifies the beginning of the rest of our lives, and I challenge you to go toward whatever you have determined as your purpose, to take what you have learned from your mistakes here at Northern Lehigh and go into the big bad world with an open mind; hopefully it will take you to great places."
Valedictorian Courtney Blocker said it was difficult for her to come up with a speech.
"When I was told to write a speech, I had no idea what to say to my fellow classmates and their families that would properly relay everything I wanted to and yet leave a lasting impression," Blocker said. "I thought that if I did not write a speech, then graduation would stay more distant, because quite frankly, the thought of leaving the familiarity of Northern Lehigh was and still is rather frightening."
Blocker added "Northern Lehigh has become like a second home to many of us, and our class, a second family."
Recently, Blocker said she came across a poem written by Shel Silverstein, the well-known children's author who wrote "The Giving Tree" and many other stories.
This bridge will only take you halfway there
To those mysterious lands you long to see:
Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fairs
And moonlit woods where unicorns run free.
So come and walk awhile with me and share
The twisting trails and wondrous worlds I've known.
But this bridge will only take you halfway there –
The last few steps you'll have to take alone.
Blocker said "it is now time to move on from the place we know. It is time to choose our own path and make our own life for ourselves."
"Until this point we have been united, but it is time to be our own person, to make our own mistakes and our own triumphs," she said. "We are each capable of living meaningful and fulfilling lives, but it is up to us to live them."
Jon DeFrain a Social Studies instructor, recognized members of the Class of 1963.
Afterward, Vlasaty recognized school district retirees.
Superintendent Michael Michaels then presented the Class of 2013, at which time he said it was a bittersweet night.
Michaels then recognized various students for their athletic and academic achievements, as well as those who are prepared to serve our country in the armed forces.
He then told the students "recognize you truly are a gem, and no one can dispute how bright you shine."
Vlasaty noted that scholarships were awarded to students at the annual Senior Awards Night back on May 22.
School Board President Edward Hartman then presented the diplomas.
The class then sang the school's Alma Mater. The ceremony ended with recessional.