Looking forward with glances to the past

By on June 14, 2017

Cocalico Class of 2017 commencement speakers track sentiments as they move forward

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For the 230 members of the Cocalico High School Class of 2017, life lessons were learned on the track and field, in the park, and from Harry Potter.

Two students, who spoke at the June 7 commencement at Calvary Church in Lancaster, analogized life past high school to track and field.

“This race that we have begun is not simple, it can be compared to hurdles in track and field,” said Demetri Whitsett, class salutatorian. “The gun will shoot off and we have to move on with our lives whether we would like to or not. You keep running, the hurdles continue to come up.

“Life is not always smooth, but how you can respond to adversity will define how you live your life. The lessons I’ve learned from track and field is that you find out who the toughest competitors are in bad weather. Those who continue to jump, run, or throw their best in the rain or wind, normally rank as the best athletes in the state. That’s the way we should strive to live our lives.”

Pa Moua was equally as persuasive in comparing life to track and field.

“The 12 years of education have prepared you and me to be at this starting line,” said Moua. “The baton is our diploma. You can’t go full speed that you are meant to if your partner doesn’t let the baton go.”

The “partner” of whom she spoke is meant to be the students’ parents, families, and teachers.

“Today when we graduate is when we get a hold of that baton and they have to let go,” said Moua. “They can’t run for you because now you have the baton. Now is your chance. Determination, confidence and positive thinking is what our track is made up of.”

Unlike graduates of decades ago where they spoke of the future and seemed to work for retirement, these graduates consider the present.

Alissa Martin, senior speaker, expressed this sentiment with a quote from Harry Potter.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” said Martin, referring to the Dumbledore character giving advice to Potter.

“Making good choices in the present and doing things that make you happy will already give you a step up for your future,” she said. “Focusing on one moment declutters your mind and allows you to really have fun and enjoy what you’re doing and who you’re with.

Colin Hinkley, the student government president and a dynamic speaker, quoted Steve Jobs, the most quoted person at recent Cocalico graduations.

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” Jobs was quoted.

“If the answer to that question was ‘no’ too many days in a row, he (Jobs) knew that he needed to change something in his life,” said Hinkley.

Olivia Voler, class valedictorian, said: “We often get so hung up on ‘what ifs’ that we forget to sit down and enjoy our walk in the park.”

Lyndsay Engle, class president, reminisced about shared experiences with her classmates. She then quoted Winston Churchill, saying: “Let’s challenge ourselves to view all situations from a positive perspective.”

Other classmates commented on their high school experience.

Juan Bermudez was born in Colombia, South America, and moved to the Cocalico area in eighth grade. He has a real-life insight into what an American can do that sometimes American-born graduates take for granted.

“I definitely tried harder here in school,” said Bermudez. “I had a change in attitude because seeing the difference between Colombia and the U.S. opened my eyes a lot.

“I realized I was given a great opportunity and I might as well take advantage of it. There are more and better opportunities here. The education is better and if you really try here, it’s easier to succeed.”

Bermudez did not speak English when he moved here. He is a member of the National Honor Society. He plans to attend Pittsburgh University to study biology and hopes to become a doctor.

“I try to keep my parents proud because they have sacrificed so much for me,” said Bermudez.

Christine Sivak was supposed to graduate in 2016, but was expelled from part of her freshman and sophomore years.

“I have a history with drug abuse, like really bad,” said Sivak. “It started in eighth grade. Someone in my class said: ‘You should try this, it makes you feel great’.”

Sivak said she used drugs until she was 16.

“I had a friend and she asked me to use drugs in the school bathroom with her and just watching her, looking what she turned into,” said Sivak. “She wasn’t my friend anymore; she was just so consumed by drugs. Ever since that day, I’ve just been, ‘no more.’”

Sivak works with Colin Buckwalter, a recent graduate of Cocalico.

“He has cerebral palsy,” said Sivak. “I love him, he is such a sweetheart. He does everything he possibly can for the community.”

The graduates’ speeches and vibe of the class reflect their class motto: “Life is waking up an hour earlier just to live an hour more.”

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


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