Graduation marks beginning

King Concert Hall at SUNY Fredonia was the site for Fredonia High School’s 82nd commencement ceremony.

This year 110 students received diplomas. After the traditional Pomp and Circumstance, the National Anthem was sung by the Madrigal Singers.

Five members of the class of 2013 spoke to the audience and their classmates. Two students performed musical selections. John Cole Jr. played Etude in C Major by Clair Omar Musser on marimba. Kathleen Mosier played Solo de Concours by A. Messager on clarinet.

John Porterfield IV, a member of the National Honor Society, welcomed those attending the ceremony.

He said, “We all have somebody to thank for supporting us and helping us along the way. Whether it’s a parent, grandparent, teacher, student or member of the community – somebody helped us out. … Thank you for supporting us, believing in us and never giving up on us.”

Valedictorian Laura Woods began her speech with both truth and humor.

She said, “I will start off by telling you what the number one fear of people is – public speaking. The second is death. Yes, people are more afraid of getting up in front of people and speaking than they are of dying. Something isn’t right here.”

The main point of her speech was, “We’re all good at something.”

She told the class, “There is so much out there in the world for all of us. So whatever you choose to do – college, sports, traveling the world, serving our country, saving the world – do the best you can and don’t let anything define you because we’re all good at something.”

Salutatorian Melissa Pchelka wasn’t quite sure what she should tell the class but thought after considering all the things learned in high school, “Maybe wisdom stems from reading in between the lines of all these things.”

Pchelka concluded by reflecting on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” a movie she had just seen.

She said, “It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. There is no time limit. You can change or stay the same. … We can make the best of it or the worst of it and I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things that you have never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. And if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

Kiel Mead, a member of the Fredonia High School class of 2002, a graduate of Pratt Institute, and a founding member of the American Design Club delivered the commencement address.

He told the graduates, “I’m actually going to talk turkey to you. Turkey, the bird not the country.

“Turkeys may be a bit odd looking. They’re large. They make funny noises; they have that funny wattle thing underneath their beaks. They’re not as proud or as elegant as the bald eagle. So it might be surprising that Benjamin Franklin actually preferred the turkey as our national bird.”

Writing to his daughter Franklin said, “The turkey is a true original native of American and besides being a little vague and silly it’s a bird of courage.”

What Mead saw in the turkey was the ability of the birds to work together in groups and form a community.

Community was and is something important to Mead. He found in several places: in Fredonia, at Pratt on the track team, and in the creation of the American Design Club (whose logo is a turkey).

He concluded, “You are a turkey and this is your community. You have helped each other succeed in your education. Find another. Find one you like and find one that makes you happy. Do what you have done here – contribute to your community.”

Student Brianna Price traced the milestones of the class of 2013 from freshmen to seniors. She pointed out that they have truly become a family. Rather than say good by, she said, “See you later.”

Diplomas were presented; the graduates turned their tassels and then some threw their caps into the air.

Student council president Keely Geise gave the farewell. She advised class members to never stop living.

She said, “Every day you learn something new and everyday is a second chance.”

Comments on this article may be directed to