LOCK HAVEN - It was a dark and stormy night ... but a big room filled with light, love and support on Thursday evening, as parents, friends and well wishers watched 320 seniors embark on a new chapter of their lives in the Central Mountain High School's 14th annual commencement.
While there was some disappointment because of the decision to hold the graduation ceremony inside the school gymnasium instead of at the nearby football stadium, the cooler temperatures brought on by the clouds softened the situation, and the bleachers were filled to capacity, then overflowed by the large crowd.
Some audience members watched the proceedings on the big screen in the auditorium nearby.
Bill Crowell/The Express
Von Walker accepts his diploma from Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Steve Turchetta at Central Mountain High School’s commencement ceremony on Thursday.
"Tonight is the night, seniors," said class President Morgan Bittner.
She noted that recent weeks have included some bittersweet emotions of friendships made and lost. Two classmates - Devin Stacey and Austin Kitchen - lost their lives.
Earlier days also included fears, Bittner said. She noted that the transition from middle school to high school was marked by such emotions, which for the most part proved to be unfounded.
She also suggested that in the future, as fear of the unknown occurs around graduation time, that years down the road graduates will look back on those concerns and laugh at how wrong they were.
She also urged the students to give something of their lives to each other on this particular day, and cherish memories.
"We are ready for whatever comes next ... It is time ... Savor the moment," she said.
"I hate this type of thing," said a somewhat reluctant speech maker and valedictorian Hayley Orndorf. She urged students to focus beyond the normal congratulatory tone of the day and think about what really matters. The graduates, when asked about what really matters, immediately would focus on somebody rather than something, she said.
According to Orndorf, people are what matter most in life, be they fellow graduates, parents, siblings or friends. Diplomas and certificates are all well and good, as they contain some measure of achievement and training, but it's people who should be put first.
"I want you to give so much of yourself that you don't recognize yourself anymore," she said.
Salutatorian Michelle Rae told her fellow seniors that of the past, future and present, they should embrace the present and strive to create inner strength and peace.
"We should be the joy and love we need in our lives," she said. "Right now is a gift ... That's why they call it the present.
District Superintendent Kelly E. Hasting offered a semi-humorous, semi-serious take on her obsession with making greeting cards of all types, by offering an inside-outside message in the hallmarks in life.
The cards included a "tell it like it is" beginning congratulating the seniors on this occasion, then telling them to get out and start a life. A wedding card followed, as she talked about how important relationships are to a continued life of happiness, and a sympathy card focused on how fragile life is and the need to say the things that need saying.
Finally, she delivered a thank-you card to the seniors, "for being such an important part of our lives ... We send you our sincere thanks."