Schuylkill valley valedictorian urges grads to succeed

Schuylkill Valley Area High School Class of 2017 graduation was held on June 8.
Schuylkill Valley Area High School Class of 2017 graduation was held on June 8. Submitted photo - David Reimer Sr.
Schuylkill Valley High School Class of 2017 graduation was held on June 8.
Schuylkill Valley High School Class of 2017 graduation was held on June 8. Lisa Mitchell - Digital First Media

The 140 Schuylkill Valley graduates walked single file in two lines into the high school stadium to “Fanfare and Processional” during the Class of 2017 Commencement on June 8.

Schuylkill Valley salutatorian Kylie Rae Brown said to her classmates, “Congratulations, 13 years of school, ending with one that probably seemed to feel at times ridiculously fast and at others painfully slow. Finally, here we are, the last day of our high school lives.”

Brown said that all through their school years, they day dreamed and planned how they would spend their days in the future, talking about the things they couldn’t wait to do.

“Tomorrow, begins the biggest summer of our lives... Everything from here on out is new. This summer is, in a way, the rest of our lives. This is truly our Commencement,” she said.

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Brown encouraged her fellow graduates “to take your 13 years of ambitions, of plans, of can’t waits and make them your momentum. Let them fuel you in the pursuit of the life you want. Take on the projects you’ve imagined for yourself. Open your eyes wider than ever to find where you might want to go. Experiment to discover the work that will provide you with more momentum. Don’t keep waiting for school to end, for summer, for the future. It’s here. And just like summer, it’s going to move fast. Years will pass the way summer weeks fly by. Don’t spend them waiting. Embrace them. Explore them and fill them with wonder.”

Schuylkill Valley valedictorian Steven Huy Phan said to the Class of 2017, “True consistent success is no accident. Success is something you have to work hard for to truly accomplish. There are no exceptions. Success is the inspiration that leads everyone to work hard and follow his or her interests. In a race, there is only one winner but first place is only a title. Your hard work has paid off. Succeeding means you have won.”

He said Webster defines succeeding as obtaining a desired object or end.

“Therefore, my fellow graduates, I urge you to succeed,” said Phan.

Schuylkill Valley Area High School Principal Mike Mitchell Jr. said the Class of 2017 will be remembered for how united they are for causes important to them.

“This fall, you were not happy with some changes to the dress code so you made your concerns known. Working with the administration, not against it, you were able to garner enough support and respectfully made changes and compromises to a dress code that suited your needs,” said Mitchell. “This spring, you came together for a much broader cause, fighting pediatric cancer.”

Students organized the first Faculty Madness Basketball Games and held the first Mini-Thon in district history.

“Working together as a Class, you raised thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research. Class of 2017, your tenacious, goal oriented, collaborative approach will not be forgotten. Congratulations on paving the way and providing examples of how to work productively together to achieve common goals.”

Mitchell noted that the Class of 2017 up to this point has proven that they are not afraid to take acceptable levels of risk.

“Now, I encourage you to follow your dreams. I encourage each of you to take acceptable levels of risk... Learn from your failures and get better. Never be afraid to try again,” said Mitchell. “Take what you’ve learned, dream big, strive to reach your goals, take acceptable levels of risk, learn from failure and change the world.”

Retiring Superintendent Dr. Warren Mata said to the graduates, “As you leave this stadium tonight, I’m sure you’ve realized that you leave behind a part of your life that was very special and memorable. I’m guessing that you may be leaving behind some friends who shared in your joy and your laughter and friends who helped raised your spirits when you were frustrated or upset about something. I know for certain that you leave behind many wonderful teachers who care deeply about you and who guided your learning. You will also leave behind a world where for the most part other people made decisions for you,” said Mata. “From this point forward, the balance shifts and you’ll each take more responsibility for your decisions.”

Mata offered some advice, to learn from their mistakes and admit they are not perfect.

“Be able to forgive yourself. Own up to your mistakes and take a moment to learn from them so that you don’t repeat them,” he said.

Mata also advised them to always do their best at their work but remember to take time for others, make time for service to others.

“In doing this, you will enrich your own life as well as others,” he said.

Mata also advised them to stay close to their relatives, stay close to their parents, noting that their parents are their anchors in life.

“These are the people who can give you that quiet and honest advice as you navigate the world ahead,” said Mata. “It is my prayer that you continue to be thoughtful men and women who act honorably, give generously to others, and hold your parents and family close to you.”

Schuylkill Valley Area School District’s new superintendent Dr. Cindy Mierzejewski also spoke.

“I’m excited and nervous to be stepping into Dr. Mata’s footsteps on July 1. The Schuylkill Valley community has been so welcoming to me and I am so grateful for everyone’s support.”

Mierzejewski thanked everyone, including Dr. Mata for his fellowship during the transition and for his leadership to the district for a great path for the future. She offered her congratulations to the Class of 2017.

Turning away from the crowd in the stands and toward the graduates, Schuylkill Valley School Board President Kevin Raudenbush addressed the Class of 2017.

“Students, you can Google for an answer, you can Google for a mate, you can Google for a career, you can Google to make a purchase, but you can’t Google to find what’s in your heart or you can’t Google to put thoughts in your brain when making life decisions. My point here is that you are in charge of your own decision making. We all make choices, big ones and small ones.”

He said the bigger decisions hold heavier significance, such as going to college or going to work that day.

“Taking risks and making choices is what makes life so exciting. Everything in your life is the reflection of a choice you have made,” said Raudenbush.

He said everyone aims to make the right choice, but sometimes we’re not successful and make the wrong choice.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” he said, encouraging them to learn from their mistakes to help them make the right choices in the future. “A mistake made more than once is a decision.”

Referring to a line in a song by the band Rush, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

Raudenbush said he really liked that line a lot... In every situation you encounter, you are going to have to make a decision. Choose your thought. Choose your response. Or choose your reaction. Even if you choose not to make a decision, you’ve made a choice.”

He said their choices have consequences. Being aware of the consequences will help them make the right decision that supports their goals.

“My advice to you? Don’t make decisions based on how you feel. Make decisions based upon your goals. I wish each and every one of you great success in life,” said Raudenbush. “Best of luck, Class of 2017. Go out and make us proud.”

Commencement included the presentation of awards, presentation of diplomas and a vocal performance by Schuylkill Valley graduating seniors Daniel Behler and Kylie Brown, singing “In Whatever Time We Have.”

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.