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Massena High School says good-bye to 171 graduates

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MASSENA - The Massena High School gymnasium was packed - and rocking with applause - as 171 seniors had their names called out Saturday afternoon during the school’s 2013 commencement ceremonies.

With the bleachers and floor seating filled, Superintendent Roger B. Clough II presided over his final graduation ceremony. He awarded diplomas to some of the students, with board of education members John R. Boyce, Leonard A. Matthews, William G. Sommerfield and Kevin F. Perretta also assisting.

As the names were called, starting with valedictorian Sarah K. Murphy and finishing with Mackenzie A. Young, shouts of joy filled the gymnasium.

But those shouts had started well before, when Mr. Clough announced to the crowd, “Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2013 are about to begin.”

As Jonathan Hunkins led musicians in the traditional Pomp and Circumstance, the seniors filed into the auditorium in rows of two, taking their seats as cameras flashed and families and friends applauded.

The mixed choir, including some seniors who had been a part of the group during their high school career, sang Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration,” which guidance counselor Bob Jordan said was appropriate as he introduced valedictorian Sarah K. Murphy.

He said the introduction of the valedictorian usually includes “a long list of accolades.”

“Sarah is no exception,” Mr. Jordan said. “She is a true inspiration.”

He recounted the challenges Ms. Murphy had faced during her school career, including her diagnosis with cancer in 2004 when she was 9 years old.

“When you have cancer, you fear the worst. At 9 years old, what goes through your mind?” he wondered.

After receiving treatment, Mr. Jordan said Ms. Murphy had a reoccurrence in 2007 when she was 12 years old and was told she needed a bone marrow transplant to survive.

And, he said, she was more than a survivor as she stood in front of her classmates on Saturday as their valedictorian who had earned a 99.02 grade point average, the highest of any Massena student in the last 20 years.

“She said she would become the valedictorian and she didn’t look back,” Mr. Jordan said. “Sarah is a leader, she’s an inspiration, she’s my hero and she’s your 2013 valedictorian.”

Art teacher Chad Simpson also lauded salutatorian Molli M. Richards, who earned a 97.84 grade point average while working year-round as a lifeguard and maintaining a long list of co-curricular activities.

“She skated with the Massena Figure Skating Club, showed her art at the St. Lawrence County Art Show for four consecutive years, was a member of concert, pep and marching bands, and participated in NYSSMA, Area All-County and Area All-State,” Mr. Simpson said.

She was also a member of the school’s musical stage crew and a four-year athlete on the varsity swimming and track teams among her other activities.

“A student receiving the honor of valedictorian and salutatorian has to be seen as a role model,” Mr. Simpson said, noting Ms. Richards was one such student. “Molli’s the type of student that takes the time to understand, takes the time to plan and takes the time to execute. She has had to apply not only her academic skills, but a love for learning.”

Ms. Murphy and Ms. Richards were the first two to receive their diplomas from Mr. Clough during Saturday’s ceremony.

“And now, with the greatest pleasure and pride, I present the Class of 2013 to Roger B. Clough II, superintendent of schools,” high school Principal Patrick Farrand said.

But they were not the last. They were among 30 students who were recognized as honor students and 171 students who are now officially declared graduates of Massena High School, ready to journey on into the next phase of their life.

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