By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
CANAJOHARIE -- Making a difference while having fun was the message that was echoed during the 136th commencement ceremony at the Canajoharie High School.
Once everyone made their entrance to the applause of friends and family, it was time to reflect on the past four years of their high school careers, and share advice for the future.
Co-class presidents Lauren Balfe and Abby Dearwester set a reflective tone for the evening during their introduction.
"When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote, 'Happy.' They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and to them, I said they didn't understand life," Balfe said. "To my fellow classmates, do what makes you happy and don't let anyone bring you down."
Dearwester followed her classmate, stating it wasn't the lessons of "hyperbole and similes" that they would remember, but the lessons of patience, perseverance and hard work that had been instilled in them over the years by their parents and teachers.
"The world is waiting if only we are willing to put forth effort," she said.
Superintendent Deborah Grimshaw provided an official welcome to the crowd, pointing out the 12-year journey that ended on that stage.
"Your teachers are so proud of you," she added, asking the graduates -- 53 of whom are going to college or receiving another form of secondary education, and 13 who are entering the workplace -- to also thank their parents and guardians with a round of applause.
Grimshaw then asked the alumni in the crowd to wave before she said, "Graduates, this is the new group you belong to."
She said the students were competitive, intellectual, hardworking, and collectively have a strong voice. She reminded them that they have a choice, they can think for themselves, and they can make a positive difference in the world.
Grimshaw took a moment to recognize Board of Education member Eric Trahan, who is retiring from the board after 15 years. She commented on his accomplishments, which include the planning and construction of the high school and the bus garage, and the renovations at East Hill and the middle school, as well as leading the district through a fiscal crisis.
"That is quite a list of accomplishments for a volunteer position that includes endless hours of meetings and discussions," Grimshaw said before presenting Trahan with a plague.
Then it was time for a few words by the top two students of the senior class. Salutatorian Kristofer Dias entertained the crowd with his unique speech, which he described as "painstaking" task that had been put off by "senioritis and procrastination" until the night before.
He reflected on the past four years, which he said was about having fun more then being studious.
"From our experiences of buses breaking down on multiple class trips, to hanging with friends, and going on our senior trip to Hershey Park, our class has always been the one that didn't like countless hours of schoolwork to slow the party of life," Dias said to laughter from his peers. He added that years from now, they would remember those memories and it would bring a smile to their faces.
"High school is like a lollipop. It looks sweet from the outside, takes forever to get through after many attempts if licking it until the very end, but overall, you'll miss it when it's gone."
He concluded by advising his peers to be extraordinary by standing up for what they believe in, to be remarkable by leaving their mark wherever they go, and to be an individual by following their heart and doing as they pleased, because "having fun and being happy is the most important thing in life."
Valedictorian Aristotle Boslet continued on the message of life with a quote, not from the philosopher for whom he was named, but by Goku, his childhood hero from the TV show "Dragon Ball Z," who said "Living in fear is not my idea of living."
Boslet said everyone is afraid of something, but the only way to conquer fear is to learn from everything they do. He reminded the group they really are the leaders of the future and must set the example.
"We need to step up and make a reputation for our generation that doesn't involve texting, twerking, and being addicted to social media," he said. "Take a piece of everything we do and remember it. We will conquer being in fear and begin to live in optimism. With this new found confidence, we will have hope for what lies ahead of us. We can use this confidence to address the challenges we face as a nation."
Boslet remarked about all those who had an impact on his life, including his parents, teachers, principals, family and friends. Then, he turned to his classmates and asked them to stand and take the time to thank all those people and show them their appreciation.
Boslet concluded with an Aristotle quote of own, "Remember your actions, be productive and use them to make you great."
The commencement ceremony continued with presentation of scholarships -- $56,075 in scholarships was awarded this year.