Kutztown valedictorian challenges grads to be passionate

Beckham Sibiski and Ashley Bleiler lead the Class of 2017 into commencement ceremonies.
Beckham Sibiski and Ashley Bleiler lead the Class of 2017 into commencement ceremonies. Submitted photo - Dennis Krumanocker
Submitted photo - Dennis Krumanocker 
2017 Distinguished Alumni Andrew Brett addresses the Class of 2017.
Submitted photo - Dennis Krumanocker 2017 Distinguished Alumni Andrew Brett addresses the Class of 2017.

A crowd of teachers, administration, family and friends watched as 104 seniors moved their tassels to the other side of their caps and became Kutztown High graduates during the Kutztown High School Class of 2017 Commencement held on June 6 in the high school auditorium.

Class Valedictorian Garrett Moyer addressed his fellow graduates.

“It is truly an honor to be standing up here with the Class of 2017. We are an amazing group of people who have done and will continue to do amazing things. We truly are a class of leaders,” said Moyer. “I really don’t think it has hit home yet that we are done. But first and foremost, congratulations to all of us! We’ve made it!”

Moyer thanked his family, friends, teachers, and anyone who helped him get to this point in his life and thanked those who helped him and his classmates grow as individuals. Talking about people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

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“Can I get a show of hands in here who owns an iPhone, Mac, iPad, Apple Watch, or anything manufactured by Apple? ... We can thank Steve Jobs for that. How many people here have used a PC, or any Microsoft Product such as word, powerpoint, or even excel? ... We can thank the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, for that. Finally, how many people have a Facebook? ... We can thank Mark Zuckerberg for Facebook.”

All three are successful and all three of them are college dropouts.

“No, I’m not going to stand up here and say don’t need go to school, that’s not the point. The point is that you can be successful in different ways... You don’t need to be lucky to be successful though,” said Moyer. “There are more examples of people who are successful who did in fact have a college education,” citing Jeff Bezos who founded Amazon, Larry Ellison who founded Oracle Corporation, Sam Walton who founded Walmart.

While noting that the general thought of most sitting on stage is that they would not be as lucky and get rich, Moyer said to his fellow graduates, “You need to evaluate what exactly success means to you.”

Defining achieving success, he quoted, “a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.”

“It means that anyone can realistically attain success based on individual goals and aims,” said Moyer. “I believe there are two parts to attaining success: the skills to do so, and the ambition... Everyone can have the ambition, it really is just a matter of mindset, which can come naturally or be acquired over time. If you have the desire and passion to become successful, you can.”

Moyer hopes that the main point his fellow graduates takeaway is that anyone can be successful.

“I just decided to use the richest people in the world for examples because almost everyone knows them or has been impacted by them, as we demonstrated earlier. This is not to say that becoming your definition of success will be easy, but along the way you will grow. If you have the skills to do so and the ambition, everyone can become successful,” said Moyer.

Moyer challenges the Class of 2017 to “be successful in whatever you do because you will grow as an individual through the journey.”

Concluding, he said, “In the end, success can be whatever you want it to be and I challenge each and every one of you to be successful and passionate at what you do and remember success doesn’t always equate to money.”

Class Salutatorian Dominic Matrone talked about endings and beginnings.

“I’ve never been a fan of endings. There are actually two different shows on Netflix right now where I watched the entire series, but left the last episode just sitting there in my queue. I don’t want to watch them because I don’t want the story to be over,” said Matrone. “However, this is not like a tv show.”

After a series is over, that’s it. He said the narrative stops and viewers have to move on.

“I won’t go so far to say that this isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning, both because I don’t actually believe that and because it sounds extremely cliche, but our stories do go on,” said Matrone. “Our story as a group may be over, but as individuals there is much more to come.”

Telling his fellow graduates that he doesn’t have any more life experience than them.

“I have no personal knowledge of what comes next, so I can’t really give any advice on how to deal with the future, or tell you what the best strategy or outlook is any more than you can. If you’re a fan of the saying do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, then best of luck to you. If you think being wealthy, whatever the cost, will make you the happiest, then I hope you’re successful,” he said.

Matrone challenges the graduates to not be a bystander in their own life.

“No matter what your philosophy on life is, do your best to follow it. If your desires change, then change your course as well. Don’t just sit back and follow the path of least resistance,” he said. “Make your life unique, make it a reflection of yourself, and, most importantly, make it enjoyable. We only live this life once, so why not make it as fun as possible? That’s my philosophy anyway, and I plan on following it.”

Looking back Matrone thinks the Kutztown Class of 2017 has done a great job of making an impact and controlling their course.

Quoting Banksy, he said, “They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”

Matrone concluded, saying, “This graduation ceremony may be the Class of 2017’s last breath, but I believe we will be remembered for a long time to come.”

2017 Distinguished Alumni Andrew Brett addressed the Class of 2017.

“Create a legacy of wisdom,” said the Kutztown Area High School Counselor. “Much as you may want to be done with school at this point, learning is a lifelong process. You will never come to a point in your life when you know everything there is to know. Never. Demonstrate to those around you that you are open to new ideas. You are open to new concepts. You are open to thinking differently. Demonstrate to others that you are indeed a work in progress, and will be for your entire life. Demonstrate to the next generation that the learning process continues well beyond high school, and even beyond post-secondary opportunities. Demonstrate to yourself that you are flexible and ready for whatever challenges life throws your way.”

Brett also hopes they create a legacy of service.

“Some of you on this stage have already made a commitment to service while you have been students. Many of you have given countless hours of volunteer time in service to our school and our community. There are some of you on this stage tonight who have bravely made a decision to serve our great nation through enlistment in the United States Armed Services. I thank you for your commitment to serve. No matter how you have included service in your life so far, you are all a fine examples to your peers and to the next generation that service to others is paramount in our world today.”

He suggested they find a Lions club, fire company, library, something that means something to them and give back.

“Finally, strive to create a legacy of kindness... All people want is to be loved, accepted, and understood. Be kind to the people you love. Try to be even kinder to the people who you don’t love. Accept those who are different from you, and strive to learn as much as you can about what makes them different. You may not agree with what they believe in, or how they live their lives, however, you can accept them for who they are.”

Among his concluding remarks, Brett said, “People may remember you because of what you accomplish in your lifetime. People will remember you for your wisdom, your service, and your kindness. Choose whatever works best for you, and work every day from now on to make it a reality.”

Kutztown Area School District Superintendent George F. Fiore said Kutztown is so very proud of the Class of 2017.

“They have not only excelled in the classroom but they have given back to their community and school. We are very excited to see the positive impact they will have on in our world,” said Fiore. “I hope that the words of our 2017 Distinguished Alumni, Mr. Andrew Brett, resonated with our students, about leaving a legacy and the importance of service.”

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.