The members of the Whitehall Central School class of 2009 looked to the future in commencement exercises held on Friday, June 26.
Speaking via video from Kathmandu, Nepal, graduation speaker Matthew Putorti told the members of the class of 2009 not to take their education lightly.
“Whether you realize it or not, you hold a unique place in global society,” said Putorti. “You are some of the privileged few who have received a formal education – and a great one at that. So rather than saying ‘I went to Whitehall’ in a mocking tone, as if to devalue the education you received, say it with pride for you are one of the lucky few.”
Putorti added that the students need to use their education not only to further themselves, but to help those they can.
“You have a certain responsibility to not only position your education so that it is the foundation of your success, but also to use it in ways that empower others to achieve their own successes,” Putorti said. “If the world’s current problems teach us anything, it is that we fail when we focus only on ourselves.”
Putorti was unable to deliver the message live to the students because of the time differential and the fact that Kathmandu was experiencing a mandatory blackout in order to save power during the time that graduation was happening in Whitehall.
“I don’t even have the decency to show up and deliver this in person,” Putorti joked at the beginning of his speech. “In fact, as you are listening to this, I am probably sleeping.”
Those in attendance also heard from the top two students in the class of 2009, valedictorian Shelby Cuomo and salutatorian Ceillie Keane.
“We are here tonight to both remember what we have been through together as a class, but also to consider where we will be going individually in the future,” said Cuomo. “Whether it is continuing our education in college, finding a job in the workforce, or serving our country in the military, everyone in our class has the potential and drive to make an impact in our world.”
Cuomo added that by finding themselves, the graduates would be able to help others.
“After growing up and experiencing high school with each person graduating tonight, I am confident that everyone on stage will be successful in their quest to find themselves,” said Cuomo. “This identity will then allow each of us to contribute to our own cause in whatever manner we wish.”
Keane talked about maturing throughout high school.
“As much as my mother will hate me for saying this, I can’t help but feel old,” said Keane. “The fact is that I’ve matured and changed, just as I know my fellow graduates have. The most significant part of this change however, is not the exact event in which it took place, but where and with whom. Somewhere between walking into Whitehall High School as a freshman in September of 2005 and now, as I leave, I grew up, and became the individual I am today.”
Keane added that the future is now what should be important to her and her classmates.
“What we do now, afterwards, who we are tonight and the rest of our tomorrow’s, that’s what is important, and that’s what will count,” Keane said.
Members of the class of 2009 included: Charles Austin, III, Ashleigh Barrett, Dillon Bartholomew, Brittany Battease, Kasondra Bennett, Paul Bertsch, Ryan Bertsch, Bradley Bessette, Preston Boule, Clinton Brown, Desirea Cenate, Chelsea Chaplin, Todd Cleveland, Jr., Trinity Corlew, Shelby Cuomo, Elekse DeGroff, Alexandra Diekel, Dawn Dumas, Matthew Evans, Gina-Marie Falso, Mary Foote, Kevin Fredette, Jacob Gimmler, Derek Gordon, Hope Gordon, Lee Gosselin, Gary Greene, Jr., Sarah Hart, Caitlin Hayward, Breanne Hilder, Cassandra Houghtby, Averi Hughes, Derek Huntington, Allison Jones, Ceillie Keane, Patrick Kelley, Jr., Nathaniel LaGoy, Angela LaRock, Evan Lavin, Amber Leclaire, Kirsten Leever, Kristen Lewis, Jessica Manell, Kevin McDonald, Robert McDonald, Zachary Miner, Joseph Neddo, Meghan O’Neil, Justin Phillips, Allie Putorti, Eric Ripley, Jake Rovelli, Kimberly Sanders, Brittany Sheldrick, Luc St. Clair, Cody Stevens, Chelsea Steves and Charles Wade.