Find solutions, OESJ grads told

The 47 members of the graduating class of Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville High School are assembled as Principal David Slater, right, prepares to emcee the event. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

ST. JOHNSVILLE — “Pounce on life,” Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Superintendent David Halloran advised graduates at the OESJ commencement Friday evening.

Drawing on the image of the wolf as the school’s mascot, Halloran told seniors they are leaving the “comfort of the wolf pack” where “the wolf is the strength of the pack, and the pack is the strength of the wolf” to join the adult world.

While urging the graduates to make the most of their future circumstances, he urged them to be “solution finders and collaborators” at a time when “compromise and respect are in decline.”

Principal David Slater served as master of ceremonies and opened by encouraging the graduates to develop as “the unique individuals” that they are. He told them not to let failures discourage them from picking themselves up, “dusting themselves off” and pressing forward.

“Always be respectful and responsible of your community and country,” he said. “Have a great life or not — the choice is yours.”

Music was provided by the school band, directed by DiAnne Mott. This is the same band that performed at the pre-inaugural evening for President Donald Trump.

Salutatorian Liam Sammons started the opening address with a self-deprecating reference to the’s definition of the salutatorian as “the less important of two high school students who have to give a speech on graduation day.” Traditionally, the salutatorian is the person with the second-highest grade average.

He gave an unscripted speech in which he displayed a rack of jackets exemplifying his activities in school. While encouraging his fellow students to take advantage of activities and opportunities that come their way, he said, “Sometimes it is the smallest things in life that take the major part of our hearts.” He spoke about the friendliness, kindness and good they show other people, including their families, that should not be overlooked. After his address, the graduates handed out flowers to their parents.

Valedictorian Lyndsey Lynch noted that hers is the first graduating class to start ninth grade at the time of the merger of Oppenheim-Ephratah schools with St. Johnsville schools. She recalled the first week when the students played breaking-the-ice games to get acquainted.

Lynch said she thought, “I’ll die,” when she was asked to fall off the stage and trust that her classmates would catch her.

She used this experience as an analogy for graduation. “We’re all about to fall into the unknown, not sure how life will treat us,” she said.

“It takes risk to find your passion,” she said. “We’re at the end of an era and the beginning of another. The best is yet to come.”

Slater called on each graduate to stand as he listed their awards and scholarships. Halloran and Neil Clark, acting president of the Board of Education, handed out diplomas.

By Paul Wager

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