TURBOTVILLE — Emotions were flowing throughout the Warrior Run Middle School auditorium Friday evening, as family and friends gathered to mark commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2019.
Valedictorian Levi Kennel opened his remarks by thanking his parents for their support over the years.
“I know I am not always the best at showing how much you mean to me, but you both have been amazing companions and role models, shaping me into the man I am today,” he said. “This goes for everyone else who has helped and will continue, I hope, to help my classmates and I.
“All of the families, friends, mentors, teachers, coaches, administrators, school board members, you have no idea how much of an impact you have had in all of our lives.”
Kennel focused his remarks on the importance of being different.
“As humans, we like the safe and comfortable, and fear the unpredictable, different and unknown,” he said. “It takes intentionality and courage to step outside of what we feel is safe or what society deems as acceptable. However, when we take that risk, the rewards are exponentially greater.”
He noted that some of the most successful individuals in history were “misfits,” including Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi and Steve Jobs.
“They caused disruption because they didn’t do what others thought they should,” Kennel said. “The same qualities that made them societal misfits, however, empowered them to stand out, rise above and change for the better.”
He added that each of the individuals were able to make an impact in the world.
“All of us have something unique that makes us who we are, a quality that nobody else has,” Kennel said. “When we embrace this side of ourselves, the differences rather than the similarities, the initial step into world-changing things is so much easier to take.”
Kennel noted that he enjoys cliff diving.
“The same feeling I get when I leap off a cliff is the same feeling all of you will feel when you take a step out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Yes, it will be scary, terrifying to be honest, but the rewards you reap and the impacts you will make are so much greater than fear.”
Like Kennel, class salutatorian Salvatore Pantano also opened his remarks by thanking his parents for their support.
“As I stand here tonight, I am struck by a deep feeling of awe,” Pantano said. “I am in awe of the ceremony and the sense of accomplishment that comes with the end of one chapter of life and the beginning of a new one.”
Pantano noted that he moved to the area five years ago from “the center of everywhere” in New York.
“I didn’t know anyone and I shared little in common with my classmates,” he said. “I felt alone... That was my obstacle, the barricade I needed to climb over to advance down my own path.”
Pantano started focusing on his schoolwork, rather than withdrawing from the world.
“My initial struggle allowed me to grow beyond the limits to which I had previously constrained myself,” he said.
Pantano opined that struggle forces individuals to change.
“It forces us to better ourselves,” he said. “When you face an obstacle on your path, it is up to you to overcome it. Otherwise, you turn away and regress as a person.”
Pantano urged his fellow classmates to preserver through whatever obstacles they may face moving forward.
“Look toward whatever challenges await you on your path and be ready to fight your way through them,” he said. “Be ready to preserver. There is no use in traveling down any path if you are going to stop halfway through.”
Lydia Boyer, class president, spoke of her memories of growing up in the Warrior Run School District.
“The childhood experiences here at Warrior Run helped us to make a somewhat smooth transition into high school,” she said. “Although our high school experience was nothing like the books or movies we came to know — especially ‘High School Musical’ — it is safe to say that we have shared some once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”
She listed the school’s annual tractor day for seniors and hiking at Ricketts Glen State Park as being among the highlights.
“High school has brought us to learn the most crucial part of what it means to be a defender — to take our dreams and make them a reality,” Boyer said.
She said the graduates must take what they’ve learned at Warrior Run and carry it into the next phase of their lives.
“We have always had our wings, but this home of ours has given us the courage needed to fly,” Boyer said. “Life will continue to shape you, even after you leave the nest, but know that being a Warrior Run Defender will always be a part of you, no matter how far you fly.”
Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email email@example.com.