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Jersey Shore wraps up graduation season

JERSEY SHORE — “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard,” Salutatorian Shaye Fries shared those words of Winnie the Poo as she addressed her fellow students at the 68th commencement ceremony of the Jersey Shore Area High School.

“As I stand in front of you all, it seems surreal to say that our time at Jersey Shore has finally come to a close,” Fries added.

Saturday’s dreary skies did nothing to dampen the mood of the crowd of family and friends who had come to witness 147 students take the step from being high school seniors to become graduates.

Admitting that he was less sentimental than the speakers before him, Valedictorian Hunter Kelley’s speech at times took a more serious tone as he offered advice for his classmates for their “future journey.”

“In the large scheme of things, high school, other than your foundation, is not that important. Winning that big football game, scoring that winning goal and even being at the top of your class, does not truly matter once you leave high school. Who you were during high school, does not matter,” Kelley said.

“Characteristics like one’s passion, kindness, generosity, courage, determination, matter infinitely more than one’s status in the high school’s social hierarchy…It is key to realize the journey has only begun for us, not ended, so you must start running towards life and control your destination before it’s too late,” he said.

He urged the students not to be complacent in the days following graduation as they receive accolades from friends and families on their achievements, but to “proceed forward down the journey and push hard on the gas.”

“It doesn’t matter how successful we are right now in our lives. If we just give up now and do not try to reach our high purpose in life. We can’t settle for mediocrity and settle in,” he said. “What I’m saying right now is we must evaluate and decide the direction of our adult lives, because that’s it, that’s where we’re at right now, we’re done with high school.”

“The truth is, life is a series of hundreds of thousands of micro-decisions we make every day,” he said, adding that each student chooses the direction of their lives as they leave high school behind.

“We have the power to do and achieve whatever is in our sights but only if we pursue it with focus and ferocity unimagined,” he said.

Kelley cautioned that the only ones who could keep the graduates from achieving their full potential, were themselves.

“We also possess the possibility to be malleable and change for the better in order to achieve what our heart’s ambitions hold,” he added.

In his opening remarks at the commencement, Dr. Brian Ulmer, district superintendent, compared the connection that the soon-to-be Jersey Shore alumni have experienced in their time in school to the function of tree roots.

“The roots of a tree serve many purposes, they are the base of a tree essentially holding it up. Roots provide the tree with vital nutrients, water and minerals that feed the entire tree. Roots ground the tree. More than just being in the ground, roots make sure the tree stays there during the storm,” he said.

“Today you will get your Jersey Shore diploma and your roots will be forever in Jersey Shore. We are the base of your life,” he said. “We provided you with the education that you need to be successful and grow in life.”

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