Morgan Frisch/Recorder staff
From left, Superintendent of Diocese of Albany Giovanni Virgiglio, Father Jeffrey L’Arche. L’Arche hands Eliza Ann Andrews her diploma during the graduation ceremony.

By MORGAN FRISCH

Recorder News Staff

The 22 eighth-graders graduating from St. Mary’s Institute (SMI) on Friday night were told they could be certain of one thing.

“The world is a better place because you are in it,” SMI Interim Principal Patty Balmer said.

Dozens of friends and family members filled St. Mary’s Church on East Main Street to honor and celebrate the SMI graduating class of 2017. The graduates entered the church walking to “Pomp and Circumstance” and then were seated for a mass given by the Rev. Jeffrey L’Arche. Dozens of students received awards for having high grade point averages, perfect attendance or for their spirituality.

Balmer said the eighth-graders were role models this year and the younger students looked up to them. That responsibility, she said, they took very seriously.

“My heart is full of pride, and excitement and love for you as you start new journey,” Balmer said.

She told the class to remember all of the important things they learned at SMI and to work hard at everything they do.

“Hard work and a good attitude will take you further than any simple talent,” Balmer said. “Push yourself to be the best. Be patient, sometimes you have to wait for things you want, but it will be worth it.”

Salutatorian Alexander Kline told his classmates they wouldn’t be where they are today without their teachers, but the students made the school.

“Yes, the teachers are important but in my eyes the students are the most important part of the school,” he said. “We the students are what made SMI what it is today. Our classmates and students in other grades also pushed us to get here.”

During his time at SMI, Kline said he grew emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

“SMI shaped my education and my future in a very positive way,” he said. “I’ll always cherish what I’ve learned here.”

Valedictorian Emily Ann Yandik reminded her classmates that they will shortly be making decisions toward their future, as well as pushing their way back up to the top. Yandik mentioned how as eighth-graders they were at the head of the school and as freshman they will be starting all over again. But, she told her peers not to doubt themselves, because they could change the world or save a life. Yandik said the best thing about their future is the unpredictability.

“Sometimes the most unexpected people have the most important things to say,” she said.

Braidyn Andrews reflected on her time at SMI as a new start, but an end to a beginning.

Grace Kuehling said it’s time to make new friends, but to also try to keep the ones they already have.

Marlee C. Ottati gave the crowd the farewell address during which she reminisced with her classmates.

“Every morning we would walk into St. Mary’s knowing that we would start our day with a prayer that would uplift our hearts, raise our confidence and start our minds,” she said.

Ottati reminded the class of 2017 to be kind to themselves and to others.

“It’s time to fly,” she said.