S tanding in front of a packed house in a conveniently air-conditioned Hartford Central School gymnasium, Renee Thorpe paused for a moment before handing out two Kiwanis Club awards.
First, she paid the entire town a compliment.
“I looked around, and there were so many people,” she said. “I said, ‘These kids have big families.’ Some told me no, that folks in town like to come watch the kids graduate,” said Thorpe, who works at Glens Falls Hospital. I had never heard anything like that before.”
Principal Andrew Cook struck both light and serious notes as he spoke to the 33 graduates who took part in the school’s 76th graduation Friday night.
First, he noted that June 22 is also “National Chocolate Éclair Day,” and proceeded to hand out éclairs to each member of the class after getting “permission” from Superintendent Thomas Abraham.
Then, he mixed humor with the more serious idea that the Internet is becoming more and more of a factor in students’ lives.
“We’re always connected these days,” Cook said. “I am sure somewhere, not here, someone is updating Facebook, ‘Listening to a boring speaker.’ ”
Later, Cook turned serious by quoting a well-known line from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
“As Ferris Bueller said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,’ ” he said. “I bet everyone in here blinked. They’re in kindergarten, then all of a sudden, you’re at graduation. Life does move pretty fast.”
Valedictorian Philip Cassella also mined the humor vein is his speech.
“My friends told me it would be easy. I don’t realize until just now they were lying,” he said. “They tell you to imagine you’re singing in the shower or to imagine that the audience is in its underwear. Then, I thought about the size of my showers and that that if all the people here were in there, and I was in my underwear, I would have bigger problems than giving a speech.”
Cassella, who will major in sports marketing at Syracuse University, constructed his speech so he could hit all the themes of thanking teachers and parents, acknowledging his classmates’ achievements, giving advice and touching everyone in the crowd with his speech.
His advice was, “Simply find time to relax. Find someone who means something to you and spend time with them.”
His method for touching everyone in the crowd was creative. He told everyone to raise their right hands and put them on the shoulders of the person next two them. “See,” he said. “Now I have touched all of you with my speech.”
Brian Getty, president of the board of education, handed out diplomas and wound up with a pocketful of trinkets the graduates handed him in exchange. “Want a trinket?” he asked at the post-graduation reception.
The school’s faculty recognized teaching assistant Christina Jones, who left the school in January, won an award as a “teacher emeritus.”
The faculty also recognized four students — Salutatorian Katherine Frye, Charissa Lewis, Morgan Carpenter and Ethan Farley with monetary awards.
For nine graduates, this was their second ceremony in as many Fridays, as they also took part in the BOCES Southern Adirondack Education Center’s event at the Glens Falls Civic Center June 15.
The students were: Melanie Arno, heavy equipment and operations II; Rebecca Clauder, new visions health careers exploration; Patrick DeLaCruz, cosmetology II; Curtis Dewey, welding II; Sean Goodell, welding II; Jenna Holcomb, health occupations II; Brieanna Loveland, health occupations II; Shawn Wall, heavy equipment and operations II; Katrina Wilkins, health occupations I.
Among the scholarships, DeLaCruz received the award from Brenda’s Chop Shop, a local beauty parlor and tanning salon run by his BOCES teacher, Brenda Choppa.
The musical program was directed by Lynette Dougher and Jillian Smith.
Cassella and Frye graduated with advanced Regents’ diplomas with honors and Brittany Brayman, Rebecca Clauder, Cierra Colvin, Patrick Coppins, Farley, Lewis, Alexander Norton, Cody Palmer, and Robert Petit all received advanced Regents’ diplomas.
Thirty-one scholarships went out during the ceremony, including $1,500 scholarships from Jointa Galusha LLC to Brayman and Lewis.