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Amsterdam, NY ,



AHS Grads Encouraged to be Kind, Never Give Up

Sunday, June 29, 2014 - Updated: 5:08 AM


TOWN OF AMSTERDAM-- Despite being forced by the school district to edit her speech for the Amsterdam High School graduation ceremony, salutatorian Rebekah Izzo stood up for what she believed in Saturday morning.

“The district forced me to change my original speech because it contained a personal message for each individual here of what God can do in [their] own life,” Izzo said in the AHS gymnasium. “The scripture verse I had chosen I could not say because it was from the word of God. I have learned that opposition is a part of growing up but in that opposition, never be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.”

After the ceremony, she specified she was ordered to take out Bible Proverbs 3:5-6.

“I had to take out the last verse which said, ‘Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight,’” she said. “I also had to omit basically everything that I said about what God could do in their lives; I had to rephrase it so that it was aimed at myself because they wouldn’t let me give a personal message to the people of what I thought God wanted them to hear.”

Izzo said the reason the district made her edit her original speech was because it violated the Establishment Clause and the school’s attorney said he believed the speech was wrong for her to do because AHS is a public school.

However, Izzo said she still thinks her faith was noticeable Saturday.

“I think God was spoken for and I really felt his presence in the gym and I’m so happy with how everything turned out with my speech,” she said.

Aside from thanking God for her success, she thanked her parents for their love and advice throughout the years and said she was so thankful to have them both in her life.

She also reminded her peers that they’ve only just started to live their lives.

“This is just the beginning; all we’ve done is graduate high school, the big things to accomplish are still to come,” she said. “Each of us will take a different path to establish our futures. Some will head to college, others will go into the military, or start their own business and others might go right into the workforce, but no matter what you decide to do always remember to never lose your individuality. Take pride in your success and more so your character. Always give your best, and if your best doesn’t seem like enough continue to persevere.”

Valedictorian Maxine Petrosino took a different approach with her pop culture inspired commencement address.

“To the graduating Class of 2014, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to say to you all today,” she began, “I actually considered, in honor of Mean Girls, taking my valedictorian trophy and smashing it into pieces and tossing it out to everyone who deserves special recognition today, but although I didn’t bring my trophy and a hammer, I’d still like to congratulate the AHS Class of 2014.”

Petrosino said to her peers that they’ve learned a lot from each other and they’ve all created memories to last a lifetime.

“We’ve searched high and low for purple and gold to wear during spirit week,” she said. “We’ve spent countless hours sitting in the couches of the media center waiting for the bell to ring; we’ve studied hard for our tests, often a class period before, but that all brings us here to today, where we’ve passed our tests, the bell has rung and we’re wearing once more purple and gold to celebrate this accomplishment. In the words of the great Elle Woods ‘We did it.’”

However, she reminded her graduating peers that their work is not finished, in fact it’s just begun. She said the skills they’ve learned at AHS have prepared them to learn new skills in the real world and they should never give up.

“Even if the road to success seems impossible, filled with endless obstacles, never give up,” she said. “...Whether it means challenging yourself through your education, taking on a leadership role or moving to California, I encourage you all to take every opportunity that is available.”

Commencement guest speaker David Pietrusza, an Amsterdam native and famous historian/author, told Saturday’s sea of purple and gold that the state of today’s economy and success aren’t very positive and it’s up to the Class of 2014 to change it.

“It’s up to you to change the world,”Pietrusza said. “I left my instruction manual on how to change the world at home so I can’t give you guys advice on how to do it, and frankly that’s a bad way to go about it.”

He said the best way to change the world is to change one’s self.

“You must be self-supporting, self-sustaining, you must make success of yourself,” he said. “It’s important to be a success and it’s important to be kind.”

He urged the class to be kind, saying it’s very important especially since nobody knows what someone else has gone through.

“Someone once wrote, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’” he said. “Those are the most important words I can convey to you.”

After receiving their diplomas, the 220 AHS graduates walked single file out of the gym and into the lobby to be greeted by their friends and family.


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