Students, administration reflect on CVCS

GERRY – As a sea of red and blue gowns marched down the aisles, the familiar sound of triumphant success of a final year conquered filtered through the auditorium speakers as proud families and friends snapped photos of graduates.

The procession commenced the 75th graduation ceremony at Cassadaga Valley Central School Friday evening, with 81 graduates awarded diplomas.

Opening remarks were delivered by High School Principal Josh Gilevski.

“I have had a pleasure working with this class my first year as principal,” he said. “You made it enjoyable and unforgettable. When I started here, I told them no matter how much they would like to speed up this last year and get out of here, they really need to try and slow down and enjoy this year of their life.

“Here we are at the end of the road and it went by in the blink of an eye,” he continued.

“They taught me what it means to be part of the Cassadaga Valley Central School family. This isn’t just a group of smart, funny kids; they truly are a great group of human beings.”

Salutatorian Emily Marsh addressed the crowd with a humorous outlook on life mixed with genuine pride in the school she called home. After the Class of 2014 sang the lyrics to the Cassadaga Valley motto, she explained what it meant to her.

“Although all these lyrics are true, none more so than the verse ‘learn to love thee as our other home.’ It is safe to say Cassadaga Valley has touched all our lives one way or another. Cassadaga Valley will always have a special place in my heart,” she said. “I would like to thank my teachers over the years for the profound impact they have had on my life.”

She challenged fellow graduates to “follow the words of the late Casey Kasem: ‘Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.'”

Class of 1989 Valedictorian Bradley Petrella returned to give some encouraging advice to his fellow Cassadaga Valley alumni.

“I never thought I would be back up here. I graduated on the 50th Commencement and now this is the 75th,” he said. “This is a great tradition and history you are all part of. Not only does tonight mark a triumphant conclusion, but it marks the beginning of your lives.

“There are several versions of success. Academic success is the joint effort as you go forward, and always try to do your best. College allows you to interact with those who share the same interests as you. Make strong friendships that last a lifetime there. Never be content with what you already know; still be willing to learn long into retirement,” he continued. “Career success begins here. Music and arts define what we are, so engage in arts. The world is a big place, but remain humble and confident. Don’t be afraid to take a chance. If I didn’t I never would’ve started my adventure in New York City. Remember, hard work keeps you going.”

Petrella works as a film producer in New York City, and has had the pleasure of meeting several actors he sees as humble and compassionate.

“The most important success is moral success,” he said. “Success as a human, striving to make the world better. People have stopped striving for moral success.

“I charge you, the Class of 2014, to be good to one another no matter where life takes you. Be morally successful, and the best you can be,” Petrella concluded. “Truly save the planet.”

Interim Superintendent Thomas Schmidt accepted the Class of 2014 gift – a flag pole. “You will all start down your own path,” he said. “You have the whole world ahead of you.”

“Life is not a journey to the grave,” Schmidt continued. “Have a great life, and a great ride.”

Valedictorian Christine Seibert offered her fellow graduates a moment to pause and see where they want their lives to take them.

“Most of us started together at 4 years old, not just as classmates, but as friends,” she said. “We are now about to go in different directions.”

Seibert mentioned Albert Einstein’s famous quote about everyone being different, and to not judge others.

“We can’t define success by comparing ourselves to others,” she said. “As we grow older we look for success. Who says we can’t find contentment in the little things. Happiness is not an event … it’s a lifestyle. We can all choose.”

For the first time Cassadaga Valley played recorded commentary by family, teachers, and administration about each graduate as they received their diplomas.

“I saw it in other school districts,” Schmidt said about coming up with the idea. “It personalizes each student and makes it special for them in that moment.”