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Tamaqua grads told to stand on their own

  • From left are Superintendent Carol Makuta, 2013 Class President Shane Mulligan, Class of 2013 Valedictorian Tyler Butkus and guest speaker R. Thomas Berner.
    From left are Superintendent Carol Makuta, 2013 Class President Shane Mulligan, Class of 2013 Valedictorian Tyler Butkus and guest speaker R. Thomas Berner.
Published June 01. 2013 09:04AM

"Expect the unexpected," said guest speaker R. Thomas Berner, a professor emeritus of journalism and American studies, Pennsylvania State University during graduation last night at Tamaqua Area High School.

He said, "Another way of looking at this advice is roll with the punches. In fact, when it comes to punches - get out of the way. Your life will not unfold as you expect it to and there will be days, months and maybe years, when you will have to deal with something unexpected. Be prepared for it."

While in high school, Berner, a 1961 graduate of Tamaqua, became involved with the Tamaqua Blue and White newspaper, which eventually lead him to an early job with Tamaqua's daily newspaper - the Evening Courier, now the TIMES NEWS.

Following that he joined the Navy during World War II and used the G.I. Bill to earn a bachelor's degree in English and master's degree in journalism. He parlayed the second degree into a faculty position at Penn State, teaching journalism for 28 years before retiring in 2003.

Berner talked about the importance of being a life-learner, saying, "You probably think that your education has concluded. I know I did when I was your age. Actually, your education has just begun. What your teachers have done to date is prepare you to keep on learning. "

"For some, the path to graduation has been paved with hardship, personal trials and tribulations that illustrate the spirit and determination that resides within these students," said Shane Mulligan, Class President of 2013. "For others, the journey has been simple and remiss; just another day in the life."

He added, "Just like each of our own high school experiences, our futures beyond Raider territory will differ greatly."

"I am extremely proud to call the members of this class my friends, and as the elected representative for my class, I can say with every confidence that we plan on rising to the occasion to meet the highest precedent set by the class of 2013," said Damian Munoz, Class President of 2014.

Superintendent Carol Makuta told the students to think outside the box, saying, "Utilize your unique skills to find new ways or different tools to accomplish your goals."

Ending with a little bit of serious humor, she added, "Finally, never, ever consider doing something that you wouldn't want your Mother or Mr. McCabe (physical education teacher) to read or see."

"Knowledge you've gained will provide your meaning, and your meaning will give you your joy in life," said High School Principal Stephen Toth.

He added that 39 students received scholarships and prizes totaling over $150,000 during the academic achievement dinner on May 13.

He also pointed out the two top ranked students. They were Tyler Butkus, son of Peter and Diane Butkus, who earned a cumulative average of 99.09 and Joseph Franko, son of Joseph and Celeste Franko, who earned a cumulative total average of 97.21.

Toth said that of the 154 graduating students, 55 students plan to go directly on to a four-year college or university, 75 plan to attend associate degree programs, business or trade schools, 14 plan to enter the profession of education, 6 plan to enter a branch of the service and 18 have commitments for employment.

Class officers recognized were Mulligan, Vice President Trevor Arnold, secretary Lauren Christ and treasurer Caroline Kanaskie.

"We (Class of 2013) are legacy," said Butkus. "We are the older brothers and sisters who have served as role models for our younger siblings, boldly blazing new trails in the future, trials that will serve as guides to those who come through this school after us… We are powerful young men and women, ready to go and take the world by storm."

Recalling a lesson given to him by his mother, who once served as a secretary to the principal of the Tamaqua Senior High School, Berner told the story of Daniel in the Old Testament. "Daniel, you may recall, put his faith ahead of his loyalty to secular matters, ran afoul of a decree by the king and was thrown into the lions' den. But rather being eaten alive, Daniel was protected by an angel and was alive when the king came to check on him the following morning. The kind spared Daniel and punished his detractors."

Asking him for the moral of the story, his mother would say to him, "Dare to be a Daniel, son. Dare to be a Daniel."

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