A sea of blue and white entered the Pleasant Valley High School stadium last night to the stirring strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" played by the high school band, directed by John DiVivo. The 511 graduating seniors gathered together one last time.
John Gress, PVHS principal, welcomed everyone to "this special night" and introduced the salutatorian, Brandon Burger.
Burger advised his classmates to "never shy away from a challenge, because it's the things you don't do that you regret most. With this in mind, you don't have to dive or be pushed off that cliff. You can soar upward instead."
"No matter where each our lives takes us, there is opportunity everywhere," he said. "However, even though 'we are guaranteed equal opportunity, we are not guaranteed equal outcome.' (A quote from teacher Mark Liscinski.) We must reach out and take it for ourselves."
He told his classmates, "Only hard work and dedication can achieve what we can dream. That being said, don't be afraid to fail. If you're not failing every now and then, you're simply not trying hard enough."
He concluded with a reminder to his classmates that each one has a gift. "It should be our life's goal to seek and refine it...If you remember anything from my speech, this would be it. Find your gift. It's the gift you'll give the world."
Burger was president of the National Honor Society and treasurer of FBLA. He plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh and pursue a doctorate in biochemistry. He is the son of Harvey and Rachel Burger.
The PVHS chorus, led by Lois Mann, sang the National Anthem and the upbeat song, "Your Heart Goes With Me,"
Victoria Romano, class president, presented the class gift. Each incoming senior, junior, sophomore and freshman class will receive $750 and the All-Night Graduation Party will receive $4,442.77.
Gress then introduced the valedictorian, Evan Shibley.
Shibley invited his classmates to remember everything up to this moment but called it "a stepping stone to bigger, better, and brighter futures that lie ahead for all of us. Let's celebrate our accomplishments on this night, but keep in mind that our journeys are not over...Never stop working. Never give up. Always have a hunger to achieve. With this, we'll go far."
He shared four of his principles that he lives by.
"Friends are one of the most important things you can have when you head off in this world. Never lose touch with those you met in high school, for these are the friends with which you have grown up," he said.
"Don't ever be afraid to take a risk for fear of failing," he remarked, adding, "Taking risks, in the right situations, lead to new and wonderful experiences...You have to be daring to achieve greatness.
His third principle was, "In life, you've got to live with passion. Whatever you may decide to do, you must make sure you do it with enthusiasm. Fill the time in your life with something you love...Find what suits you, makes you happy, and do it for the rest of your life."
He then quoted NBA star Kevin Durant in relating the fourth principle. He said, 'Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.'...The only thing that matters is how hard you are willing to work in order to achieve what you want...Success is not something that's going to be handed to you. You've got to work for it. You have to define it, make it what you want. Success is for those people who are willing to put in the extra effort and work harder than everybody else."
Shibley is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Spanish Society.
In Gress's address to the class, he said that the world is changing and needs good citizens and problem solvers and leadership. "We're confident you will live up those expectations."
In closing, he told them that they made a difference and asked them to continue making a difference. "Never lose our positive outlook on life."
Gress introduced Dr. Douglas Arnold, PVSD superintendent, who will be retiring at the end of July, thanking him for all he has done for the district the last six years.
Dr. Arnold called the Class of 2013 "Outstanding...You have made us PV Proud over and over again."
PVSD board of directors president, Thomas Murphy and vice president Susan Kresge bestowed the diplomas to the Class of 2013.
The PVHS chorus sang the Alma Mater. The bell was rung by the class officers, Victoria Romano, president; Chelsea Pimentel, vice president; Meadjean Placide, secretary; and Michael Wasco, treasurer. Caps were tossed into the air in jubilation.