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Palmerton grads are prepared to meet challenges

Competition for the top-ranked spot in Palmerton Area High School’s Class of 2017 took a back seat at Monday night’s commencement ceremony.

Jonathan Blichar and Jacob Taylor held the valedictorian and salutatorian spots respectively, but instead of giving individual speeches, they addressed their class together, as friends.

“We wanted to give our speech together as equals despite the competitive nature that envelops the battle for highest grades,” Taylor said.

The duo reflected on their time from S.S. Palmer Elementary School to the high school.

“Life will throw each of us into our own unusual story,” Blichar said. “No two stories will be the same. We hope our time together at PAHS has prepared each and every one of us to pursue our own weird stories and meet the challenges we face as graduates.”

Principal Paula Husar has led the class since the eighth grade, giving her an emotional attachment to the group.

Through building construction and a labor dispute that extended the school year, the class never wavered, she said.

“You took a week and a half of Keystone Exams in three days,” she told the class. “Nothing stopped you. You took everything in stride and that is what makes you unique. You’re certainly special and I love you for that.”

Superintendent Scot Engler called the class a joy to be around, noting how they “respectfully represented the district and community.”

Blichar and Taylor joked about the progress made at the high school just as the Class of 2017 walks out its doors for the final time.

“Just as we leave, the school installs chillers,” they said. “At least we got them for one year. Just as we leave the junior high kids are going to be getting their own cafeteria instead of running through our halls and disrupting us high schoolers. Just as we leave, the school is getting a nice new turf field and all-weather track that a variety of school sports will now have the privilege of using. And just as we leave, the high school is even getting a new coat of paint, so the upcoming students won’t have to stare at faded yellows and greens.”

Class President Daniel Nicolo said as the Class of 2017’s high school career comes to a close, it’s important to remember the foundation that has been laid for the rest of their lives.

Giving credit to the faculty and the school board, both Blichar and Martinez also spoke highly of their principal in guiding them throughout their career.

“I think I’m speaking for many of us here tonight when I say that it’s been a privilege to have her leading Palmerton high school. I trust that she will keep on leading future classes just as she has ours, and I hope that she stays here in Palmerton for many years.”

Palmerton valedictorian Jonathan Blichar, left, and salutatorian Jacob Taylor share the speaking duties at the school's 2017 graduation ceremony by blending their speeches into one. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app or go to the Times News Facebook page to see a video of the graduation. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS