Remembrance, pomp and circumstance
By: MICHELLE REIFF Review Staff firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
Before the 265 Cocalico High School graduating seniors embarked on their highly anticipated walk to the stage at the June 6 commencement, they chose to pay tribute to a classmate who was no longer with them.
"Our class is special because we have a very special person watching over us. She’s here right now. Maybe not physically, but in all the happiness that fills this room. In our caps and tassels, in our parents’ tears of joy, in our final hugs good-bye and in the freedom and joy we are all about to experience. Her name is Lauren Elizabeth Trefny and she is very alive in all of us."
These were the words spoken by Leah Wallace and Emily Zimmerman, close friends of the fellow student and member of the cross country team who lost her life when struck by a car while jogging last summer. The touching sentiments were followed by a performance by the Choralaires titled "In Remembrance" by Eleanor Daley.
Principal Chris Irvine recognizes the class of 2012 as one which has shown a lot of growth, not only from this tragedy but as a whole. His own daughter, Haley Irvine, was one of this year’s graduating seniors.
"It’s been a trying year for these kids," said Irvine. "The kids really came together and did some nice things throughout the year to raise money for a scholarship to memorialize Lauren."
As their principal in eight grade, Irvine has known most of the class since kindergarten.
"As a parent, teacher, coach and administrator, I’ve had the privilege of watching these students grow up," he said as he began his welcome that night. "They are a tremendous group of young people."
He spoke of how sometimes in life there are tears, but those tears turned into laughter as they celebrated their friend’s life and moved forward on the path to their future.
"My path is set. I will remain a principal, but you can do anything you choose to do. The sky is the limit," said Irvine to the class.
Irvine described the students as future scholars, leaders, athletes, musicians, artists, carpenters, masons, mechanics, electricians, chefs and servicemen.
He recognized the graduates who will join the U.S. military as they stood to accept applause from parents, family and friends. They include: Brandon Baringer, Shaun Blanchette and Nathan Long, Army; Nathan Haws, Navy; Dominic Rey, Air Force; Shae Pressel, Marine Corps; and Gordon Whitehill III, National Guard.
This year’s commencement was one of pride for several members of the school board, who witnessed their own children receiving their reward for years of diligent study. In addition to salutatorian Lauren Waskowicz, the daughter of school board member Mary Waskowicz, the graduating group included Joshua Lorah and Joshua Richardson, sons of board members John Lorah and Steve Richardson. Board member Douglas Graybill watched as his son Christian, nephew William "Ben," and niece, Brittany, accepted their diplomas.
Valedictorian Samantha Young and salutatorian Waskowicz, best friends, were able to celebrate this monumental occasion together.
Humbly accepting the spotlight, when Young was told she was at the top of her class, she said she simply felt "like everybody else."
"I was really excited to graduate. I felt really honored to be recognized," she said.
Young, who will begin attending DeSales University this fall for a five-year physician assistant program, credits her parents as her greatest mentors.
"Both my mom and dad have taught me to always give back to the community and really serve other people," she said. She was involved in Mock Trial and National Honor Society, track and band and plans to remain active in the Leo Club.
Both Young and Waskowicz were thrilled with the chance to have their hard work recognized. Sharing this top placement with each other was very gratifying to each — an appropriate way for the two, who have been best friends since first grade, to spend their final moments of school.
The girls were always together over the years; they always took the same classes.
"I cried in second grade when I wasn’t in her class in third grade," said Waskowicz.
"I couldn’t wish anything better to happen," she said of sharing this together.
According to Waskowicz, neither were sure until recently which of them was going to be valedictorian and which salutatorian.
"We had kind of been going back and forth each year, either number one or number two — but it was never really a competition," she said, happy with the results.
They will start their first classes apart in the fall as they go their separate ways, Waskowicz attending Duke University to study chemistry or engineering.
Four other students were also chosen as speakers at commencement. Following are excerpts from each of the six seniors’ prepared words to the crowd:
Avery Longstaff, Class President
"For those of you who don’t know me, I am Cocalico 2012.
"I am every boy or girl that stood behind a parent, scared to death on the first day of kindergarten.
"I am every boy or girl who joined the grade school band because everyone else was doing it.
"I am every boy or girl who couldn’t wait for graduation.
"And tonight, I am Avery Longstaff.
"I am confident that I have been given the tools to succeed against all odds, by the greatest of mentors.
"And if you are scared, you can stand behind me. Because I am Cocalico 2012 and I am up for the challenge. We are up for the challenge."
"This is something I certainly didn’t want to do when speaking at graduation: steal someone’s idea. I thought long and hard about what Cocalico had done for me and all my classmates and what impact it will make in our future: The answer to my question hit me in the face, like a loud telephone ring. I figured I should answer the call.
"My challenge to the class of 2012 is to not be complacent with mediocrity once they have graduated high school but rather to make the call in their lives to push society forward. Whenever this key moment will come, I know that each and everyone of us has been taught to make the right call in our lives, from our conscientious teachers at Cocalico.
"In mythology, the phoenix is an elegant bird…It can live for hundreds of years, but when the time comes for it to pass it doesn’t go out quietly. The phoenix bursts into a ball of flames.
"Well, just like the phoenix, we’re coming to the end of one life, whether you realize it or not. Graduation is our last big bang. It’s our ‘ball of flames.’
"It’s time to start fresh, to go out on a limb, to put ourselves out there and figure out what we want from our lives.
"So after tonight, after you leave this life behind and start new, take a chance."
"The person you created here and now at Cocalico High School is a person that will live here forever.
"Those little moments, the ones that got us through high school, are the ones that are worth remembering.
"That is how we say think you by recognizing what people have done for us every single day.
"Thanks to the mom who ran your jersey over to school on her lunch break because you forgot it was game day.
"Thanks to the teacher that spared the homework during PSSA week.
"Thanks to the lunch lady who let you buy lunch even though you were -$4.75.
"Do the little things, that people will always remember. Whatever you want to do, do it big and do it loud.
"And don’t you dare be the background."
"You should never stop learning because the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know.
"So find something you’re passionate about and learn about it.
"My idea of a perfect vacation is hunting for Marcellus Shale natural gas wells in northern Pennsylvania.
"But I’m a nerd — that’s what I do, those are my interests. Find the thing that you’re interested in.
"But don’t think you have to choose a topic you studied in high school.
"In history those who stopped learning, who closed their minds to new information were left behind, ignored or forgotten. Don’t barricade your mind against learning. find your passion and learn about it."
"Hope. This is one one of those gray mushy words.
"Hope means something different to every single person in this room.
"This year a class of freshmen and sophomores came up with a creative way to get people to talk about serious topics for Aevidum. They picked a random number: 23. And all around the school anonymous 23-word stories started popping up. For the senior class I wanted to leave everyone with a 23-word challenge: Don’t let your dreams or your hope fall into that gray mush. Imagine them. Tell them. Let them be heard. An surprise yourself."
The diplomas were presented to the seniors by Dr. Bruce L. Sensenig, superintendent, and Allen L. Dissinger, school board president.
The graduates tossed their caps in celebration of their past and eager anticipation of the future. In their memories and in their endeavors, they will attempt to remain, like their class motto states, "Forever Young." More COCALICO, page A6