North Penn: Bittersweet celebration

BLOSSBURG – “We are North Penn,” shouted the 41 members of the newly graduated Class of 2014 at the end of their graduation ceremonies in a bittersweet conclusion to the last commencement to be held at the school.

The gymnasium was jammed with community members to the only Southern Tioga School District graduation ceremony that was open to the public.

It was the last ceremony of the day, and also the last one ever, because after 56 years of continuous operation, North Penn High School will be no more in its current form.

But, according to keynote speaker Ivan John Erway, North Penn Class of 1982, “it doesn’t matter.”

“No matter what happens to these halls or this building, the spirit of North Penn lives on in its people,” Erway said.

“This is a bittersweet moment, but it is your moment. You are North Penn; you are the future as we go forth,” he said.

Even as the school closes, “there are concepts you have learned here,” he told the class and expounded on the meaning of a line in the school’s alma mater: “To strive to do and strive to be.”

As they go out into the world, Erway told them they must “strive to do and be … first. Devote serious energy towards a goal.”

“You will have hard work, you will struggle, but you will move forward,” he said.

Erway also talked about the importance of love, forgiveness and reaching out a helping hand to those in need.

“The hardest lesson of our school is working out the Golden Rule,” Erway quoted another line from the song.

“To do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What do you want to be treated as? Show that belief, be that belief, live the Golden Rule,” he said.

“No place lives the Golden Rule like North Penn,” he said.

Erway’s daughter Rebekah, who was the class valedictorian, also asked her classmates to “forgive and “let the hurt go” over the fact that after all the debate and discussion, “our school is the one closing.”

“Forgiveness is a fragrance that will only make life sweeter,” she said.