Cocalico High Class of 2016 takes its big step forward

By on June 20, 2016

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Friends and family brought their #YOLO attitudes to celebrate the 261 members of the Cocalico High School Class of 2016 at commencement ceremonies held the evening of June 9 at Calvary Church in Ephrata.

#YOLO is a class acronym for “you only live once,” and seems to be a force in future decision making for this class.

Both Rebecca Voler, class valedictorian, and Maya Bingaman quoted similar sayings of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs about doing in life “what you love to do.” “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” “Don’t settle.”

“So, be selfish,” said Bingaman. “It’s not something people tell you to do very often, and it’s usually not viewed as a quality characteristic, it’s actually necessary to think of others a majority of the time, however, there comes a time in our lives where we must be selfish.”

The official class motto is a quote by the late astronomer Carl Sagan: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

“It’s your life 24/7,” said Bingaman. “Stop waiting for Fridays to be happy, remember #YOLO, and stop settling when you’re not satisfied with where you are. Only you know what’s going to bring you the most joy out of life, so for your sake, be selfish.”

#YOLO-like expressions seemed to be a common theme in the seniors’ speeches.

“Andy Bernard of ‘The Office’ once said: ‘I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve left them,’” said Kayla Logar, salutatorian. “We’ve all had some pretty good days together, but there are definitely countless good days awaiting all of us if we just recognize them when they come.”

The title, Pomp and Circumstance, comes from a line in Shakespeare’s Othello (“Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”). After a recording of this was played, Cocalico High School Principal Chris Irvine choked up with pride after giving his assessment of the 2016 class.

“As I reflected on the class, two words came to mind; happy and humble,” said Irvine.

“…But have we contemplated what the American dream means to us?” said senior Ken Wallace. “…Perhaps we can measure the quality and success of our lives with how quick we are to turn attention away from ourselves, the size of our hearts, and the span of our humility.”

Living up to Irvine’s description, the entire class went through the presentation of diplomas without students yelling or jumping after receiving, so there didn’t seem to be much difference on the applause scale as in previous years, but one student, Andy Kreamer, stood out.

“Andy is fantastic and he embodies everything that the Cocalico spirit is,” said Dr. Elizabeth Zuraw. “He is at every event; he is at every dance. He has friends in every echelon of the building.”

Kreamer has high-functioning autism and is in the school’s learning support program. He is also in the work-study program and has a job at Reading Hospital in food service where he’s being promoted to dessert preparation over the summer.

“We don’t have a lot of students who get accepted in there,” said Zuraw.

His mother, Kim Kreamer, said Andy loves to cook.

“He’s great at coming up with all kinds of recipes,” said Kreamer, beaming.

Andy Kreamer has some physical challenges.

“He has motor-skill issues, his hands shake,” said his mother. “It’s very hard for him to write and causes a lot of anxiety, but with a great team, he’s been able to persevere.”

He was able to play percussion instruments in marching band for four years.

“If you teach Andy a skill and you repeat it and repeat it, he grows right in to it and he’s on his own,” said Kreamer.

The Kreamer family is having a big graduation party this summer.

“It’s not just for Andy, it’s for Dr. Zuraw, and everybody else that has walked alongside from day one,” said Kreamer. “We’re so grateful. We did not get this far, Andy did not get this far with just our immediate family alone.”

Andy was voted prom king by the student body.

“They did not look down on him, they treated him as an equal,” said Kreamer. “The football players high-fived him.”

It’s been a long road to graduation for the Kreamers.

“He’s always wanting to be very social, but with autism, it’s very difficult to express yourself and there are a lot of anxieties, so to see him progress socially and grow to be so comfortable that he can actually form sentences,” said Kreamer.

Before declaring the students graduates, Superintendent Dr. Bruce Sensenig read from a poem by Robert Fulghum.

“We’ve learned a lot along the way, but it all goes back to kindergarten…All I ever needed to know, I learned in kindergarten,” said Sensenig.

Sensenig mirrored Wallace in how it’s important to approach life with an “attitude of gratitude.”

They really were a great group of kids,” said Jolienne Guthridge, mother of Eric. Her son transferred in ninth grade to Cocalico from a smaller school because he wanted a “broader experience and a bigger school with athletic opportunities.”

A “Captain America” bow tie was peeking out from Andy Kreamer’s Cocalico-blue gown. When asked how it felt to be a high school graduate, Kreamer responded simply: “Free.”

 

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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