Broadalbin-Perth graduates embrace their diversity

By ALISSA SCOTT

Recorder News Staff

BROADALBIN -- People told Anna Bayes she would never have what it takes to get her diploma, but that didn't stop her from being one of nearly 130 students to graduate from Broadalbin-Perth High School Friday night.

"I know a lot of people said that they didn't think she would make it," Samara Stoltz, Bayes' best friend, said. "But I'm proud of her that she did. She stuck with it."

Supporters of the graduates filled the bleachers, seats lining the track and lawn chairs in the grass surrounding Patriot's Field at the high school.

Beginning the ceremony, Principal Margaret Blowers invited the four students who have enlisted in the armed services to help recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Three seniors, Patrick Brown, Matthew Dyer and Walter Saide, then led the audience in the National Anthem.

The top three students who graduated with the highest grade point averages, Kelsey Rasefske, Amy Walendziak and Caitlin Rasefske, gave speeches at the ceremony. Kelsey Rasefske graduated with higher than a 99 average, which, according to Blowers, "just doesn't happen."

Walendziak, the salutatorian, highlighted some moments of their last year of high school.

"The 2012 summer Olympics took place before we began senior year," Walendziak reminded her classmates. "In November, the 57th U.S. presidential election took place. In February, the world saw the resignation of a pope for the first time in 598 years. But in my opinion, these events were all just opening acts for a bigger event -- our graduation."

Caitlin Rasefske, who graduated third in her class, referenced "The Breakfast Club" in her speech to the Class of 2013.

"Let's imagine this, we all get called to Saturday morning detention in the library with Mrs. Blowers and she assigns us an essay in which we have to write about who we are as a person," Rasefske said. "What would you say? Well, I guess more important, what would you do?"

Rasefske said her class was very diverse, and they have learned to embrace their differences and find their own uniqueness. Quoting the final essay of "The Breakfast Club" at the end of her speech, Rasefske hoisted her fist into the air, as "Don't You (Forget About Me)" played and Blowers danced back to the podium and students danced in their seats.

Bridging off diversity, Stephen Tomlison, superintendent of schools, recognized Fanny Willieme and Sophia Miron, foreign exchanged students who studied at BPHS for the past year.

"What we fell in love with, with them is their remarkable, positive attitude towards life and their zest for life," Tomlison said. "These girls took advantage of absolutely everything that we could throw at them in the Broadalbin-Perth community ... and they did it with dignity and they enjoyed it. I'm certain that we all agree that these ladies have left their mark on B-P and they will be truly missed."

Whether they plan to go to college in the fall, join the military, or don't know what they're going to do yet, Edward Szumowski, Board of Education president, said he and the board wish the graduating class happiness.

"There was a longitudinal study done, with thousands of people over the course of 50 plus years, where they were asked a poll every year," Szumowski said. "And a certain group would consistently report to be being happy. As a graduation gift, I give you the secret to a happy life, backed up by data from thousands. Honesty and trustworthiness.

"The happiest people live in communities with almost no crime. They don't cheat or steal. They've never been arrested or in prison and they respect the lives and properties of others. Strive to be honest and trustworthy."

The graduates gave $300 to a scholarship fund as their senior class gift, and left the remaining balance to the incoming senior class.

Bayes, who said she will be attending Fulton-Montgomery Community College in the fall, said she can't believe she's made it this far.

"I'm excited, nervous, I'm just all mixed feelings," Bayes said, choking back tears. "I'm just going to miss my friends."