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Graduates say an emotional farewell at Norwood-Norfolk


POTSDAM - Saturday’s graduation speakers at Norwood-Norfolk Central School used their time on stage to give their classmates advice, but two of the speakers also gave emotional thank yous to their parents.

“Before I begin I would like to thank two amazing individuals, my mom and dad, because without their constant support, inspiration, and love, I wouldn’t be standing up here on this stage tonight,” said Salutatorian Carlea M. Weaver. “Mom, thanks for being my shoulder to cry on, for always believing in me and for being my personal therapist. You’re a strong woman, and I can only hope that one day I will be as strong as you are.”

She continued, “Dad, thanks for being my rock, for being my biggest fan, and for being a role model that I can look up to. I will always be your little girl. I can’t imagine it any other way,” she said. “I love you guys more than anything in the world, and I appreciate every little thing you have done for me along the way, thank you for everything.”

Class President Mikayla E. Frego’s speech was all about gratitude and among those thanked were her parents and those of her classmates.

“Where do I even begin?” she asked. “You have been by our sides since day one, through thick and thin, through times of excitement and times of heartbreak. You dragged us out of bed and made sure we got to school on time. You paid for our class expenses and came out to support us in sports and activities. You listened to our whining and you knew when we needed whipping into shape.”

She continued, “You bent over backwards to protect us, and without a doubt you will never stop doing that. You raised us into the young adults we are today. We have gotten mad at you throughout the years, but at the end of the day, you are still our biggest inspiration.”

Valedictorian Jessica K. Fulk used her speech to give advice to her classmates, comparing high school and life to “a really long race,” something she is familiar with as one of the better distance runners in the region.

“When I first found out I was valedictorian, I was overwhelmed with joy, a lot like I am when running, which got me to thinking that life and high school are like running a really long race,” she said. “Both require you to work so hard and go through so much pain and training and preparation.”

Comparing elementary and middle school to practice, she said, “We are parades around in single file lines, taught basic math, and taught how to read and write. In middle school we spend all our time preparing for high school.”

And that is where, she said, the race begins.

“Entering ninth grade is like stepping up to the starting line of the race. You’re nervous and not sure what to expect even though it’s not that much different than all the past years and races,” she said. “Then the gun goes off and you shoot forward and quickly settle into a pace. At first everything in ninth grade seemed new and exciting, but it quickly settled into a routine that repeated itself every day.”

And with that routine came comfort, comfort that would soon give way to nerves and the affliction known as “senioritis.”

“Tenth grade wasn’t much harder than ninth; our teachers didn’t even have to come to school sometimes they’d just record themselves talking on the Smartboard,” she said. As easy as 10th grade was our teachers were constantly warning us that 11th grade would be 10 times harder. By the end of 10th grade most of us already had senioritis. We were halfway done with high school and would be done before we knew it.”

Then comes 11th grade, which could be compared to Boston’s famed “Heartbreak Hill.”

“The second half of the race is always the hardest part. The adrenaline from the start has worn off and you’re left with only your endurance to make it through the rest of the years,” she said. “As promised 11th grade was harder than any other year... By the end of 11th grade we were ready senior year, the last lap. It’s the last lap, and you think it will be easier, but it seems so far and you’re exhausted and ready to be done already.”

With everything that comes with your senior year, Ms. Fulk said it’s one heck of a last lap.

“Everyone says senior year is a breeze, but what about all the college applications and the dozens of scholarship essays you have to write? And all the life changing decisions you have to make?” she said. “Before you know it it’s the last month of school and we’re going on class trips and having senior pranks while trying to pass our last finals. And then suddenly it’s over.”

So what happens now? Ms. Fulk wondered. “You walk around dazed and confused for bit, not knowing what to do next, but then you start preparing for the next big race,” she said. “All of us have finished our race. We’ve graduated high school, and now we’re starting our future and wondering what to do with it. Most of us are preparing for college, the military, or a job, our next big race.”

Ms. Fulk then offered her classmates a bit of advice, courtesy of Dean Karnazes, a man that was no stranger to big races.

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.”

After thanking her parents, Ms. Weaver spoke about change.

“We have been raised in a world of change,” she said. “In first grade we sat silently in our classrooms watching the 9/11 tragedy unfold on television, forever changing the world’s foreign policy and understanding of terrorism. In fourth grade, we experienced the foundation of Facebook, and in sixth grade the foundation of Twitter, forever changing the way our world communicates with one another.”

She continued, “In eighth grade, we watched the inauguration of our nation’s first African-American president, forever changing the world’s history of true equality and in 11th grade we watched news reports about the death of Osama bin Laden, forever changing our sense of nationalism and patriotism.”

And while the world is full of change, Ms. Weaver said there is one thing that never changes, “our ability to make our own decisions. “We aren’t going to make the right decision every single time, we aren’t perfect. Life is a journey of trial and error,” she said. “Sometimes we might dig ourselves into a hole, but I know that every single person on this stage has the confidence and the will power to get back on track and succeed. Now is the time for us to make mistakes, because we have the rest of our life to learn from them.”

Ms. Weaver referenced back to some words from people that have what meant a lot to her.

“A wise teacher once told me that teaching teenagers is like trying to nail Jello to a tree. And a wise mother once told me that every mom in the world understands why animals sometimes eat their young,” she said. “But what can I say, it’s hard trying to teach or raise kids like us who already know everything. I have an abundance of confidence in this class. Every single student up here on stage is a brilliant individual, each with his or her own unique personality and character. I’m extremely proud of everything we have accomplished together, and over the years we have become more than just classmates, teammates, and friends, we have become family, and I am forever grateful for that.”

In addition to thanking her family, Ms. Frego also thanked the district’s teachers, coaches, advisors, custodians, cafeteria staff, superintendent, principal, office staff and Class of 2013 advisors, as well as her 48 classmates.

“To my class, thank you for being my second family. Thank you for making my years at Norwood-Norfolk the best they could be,” she said. “We have had so many great memories together, and I am so grateful for that. It seems like yesterday we were helpless little freshmen struggling to open our lockers and clueless as to how high school really works, but look at us now, graduating high school and starting the next chapter of our lives. This is our year, let’s show the world what we have to offer.”

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