PARISHVILLE - The commencement address speaker at Parishville-Hopkinton Central School told the 28 members of the Class of 2013 Saturday they now had a blank slate as they looked into their future.
It is yours for the taking, Elizabeth M. White, a physical education teacher at the school and a class advisor for the seniors told the graduates.
She said experiences in her own life over the past two years had given her a new perspective. Find something that makes you truly happy - be it a person, a job, a place. Happiness is real. It does exist, she said.
And she warned the teenagers adorned in the white and red gowns of Parishville-Hopkinton graduates to take time to enjoy life rather than focusing on day to day struggles.
I too spent my life worrying. About a year and a half ago my son got sick, and everything was taken away from me so fast ... I have a brand new outlook on life every day now. I have a job I love, the love of friends and family, she said.
She said she also learned her attitude impacts those around her. When I choose to be positive and happy, those around me are positive and happy, Ms. White pointed out.
Ms. White and her husband, Michael R., had assumed their then 2-year-old son, Oliver M., had another ear infection when they took him to Canton-Potsdam Hospital in September 2011 with a high fever that wouldnt come down with medicine.
When Olivers fever spiked above 104 degrees, they headed to the emergency room. There the toddler was seen by his uncle, Dr. Jason Lorence, who ordered blood work and a chest X-ray.
Concerned about the results, the hospitals pathologist referred the family to Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, Vt.
After driving through the night, the family received bad news: Oliver was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare form of white blood cell cancer.
The family started making weekly trips to Burlington, where Oliver received chemotherapy, steroids and antibiotics. He also took oral chemotherapy and started physical therapy in Ogdensburg to strengthen his legs and improve coordination. Ms. White took the 2011-12 school year off to care for her son.
She said she immediately noticed a difference in the Class of 2013 - a group known for its spirit - when she returned to work this past fall. Seven years ago, if you stuck these kids in a gym ...It never would happened, she said, noting the students had also successfully completed a week together in an outdoor education program this year.
Youve made amazing strides in your time here. Your future is in your hands. Seize the opportunity, she said.
Valedictorian Dana L. Harper, salutatorian Jenna L. Converse and Class of 2013 President Caitlin M. McGregor also spoke at the commencement exercises in the schools auditorium.
School Superintendent Darin P. Saiff said the Class of 2013 featured artists, musicians, athletes, outdoorsmen, firemen and firewomen and even a race car driver. He said the class was filled with good people that well represented the communities of Parishville and Hopkinton.
High school Principal Bob Stewart handed out $28,250 in scholarships and awards after school board representative Ward M. Remington handed out 28 diplomas.
Your time at Parishville-Hopkinton has come to an end, Mr. Stewart told the now former members of the schools senior class. Work hard, stay focused and you will meet your goals, he suggested.