Friday, June 19, 2015

PHS Graduation Speeches, a Tale of Two Nicks

Mercury Photos by John Strickler
The Pottstown High School Class of 2015

Did you miss the Pottstown High School graduation ceremonies Monday?

I did.

The Mercury now cover graduations primarily with photographers. Without a reporter's words to clutter things up, there is room for more photos.

Left out, however, are reports on the speeches, a loss felt most keenly by the proud family of those giving them.

But thanks to the ever-industrious John Armato, now you can read the speeches given by Valedictorian Nicolas Muriel, Salutatorian Nicholas Irvin (who I remember fondly from my son's Little League days) and Superintendent Jeff Sparagana right here on this very blog.

Without further ado...

Nicolas Muriel:
I think I speak for everyone when I say that this past week has felt tumultuous and frenzied, and perhaps the weight of these events can be lost in the bombast. Now is an
opportune time to reflect on just what has led to this moment. For most of us, it’s been at
PHS Valedictorian Nicolas Muriel
least 13 years of determined, rigorous work in the classroom. For many, even more has been applied through humanitarian, communal, and service activities provided through the district. That’s not even getting into the recreational, yet both highly competitive and bonding, activities in the sports field that a noticeable portion of our class have participated in. To have reached this level is a testament to our growth and our character, and that is immensely applaudable.

Of course, now is also opportune to realize the point of no return we are facing in these next few minutes. Regardless of whether one is going to a post-­secondary institution, the world of work, or the armed forces, the moment you receive a diploma is the moment your life changes. With the certification of your skills you receive, you are mentally endowed with the obligation to utilize those skills to not only improve your life but also your community. Whether you travel 10 miles or across the world in your future endeavors, the sensibilities and logic you’ve developed in your school career will aid you in being an exemplary citizen in your life and hopefully those you affect.

Upon realization of what we can be, it would be polite, nigh necessary, to thank those who have helped us reach this point in our lives. The teachers are naturally the first consideration, and I can vouch that the vast majority are not only informative, fair, interesting and constructively critical, but also humorous, relatable, and most importantly joyously purposed in their work. The fact that many also participate in multiple areas of school life, from coaching to volunteering to even participating in amazing pep rallies and yearbook dances, really shows their dedication to not only teaching us but reaching us. Who else remembers the fun of learning every country in the world in eighth grade, the unboundable charisma of teachers like Mr. Arms, the pep of teachers like Sra. Dudonis and Mrs. Gazzillo, the energy in teaching proofs of Mrs. Martinez, the wit and craft of Mr. Decker along with his leading of the renaissance of school musicals, and the cheer of Mrs. Rieger uniting our whole school for a filmed performance? The characters of the teachers were a massive benefit to learning in this district. There are also those in our personal lives that help motivate us to succeed. As kids, being reminded about doing homework or showing grades may have seemed overbearing, but that continued interest and concern for scholastic progress from our guardians is one of the many key things they aided us in through our development. The friends we made also helped immensely, relieving potential tension behaviorally, making us more interested in trying out extracurricular activities, and making the school a multifaceted experience of not only academic but social learning.

So, class of 2015, in the excitement of today, do not neglect to take some time to take it all in: how much you’ve been able to experience, the people who have helped you along, and what lies ahead. It’s an incredible honor to be speaking to you all today as your valedictorian, and I wish the best of luck in your future endeavors.
Next up, of course, is salutatorian Nicholas Irvin:
Good evening everybody. Class of 2015, we did it! We are finally here, graduation day. Looking back on the past more than a decade, I seem to remember everything like it was yesterday. Elementary school seems so close, yet so far away. I can still remember the field days. The days where everything seemed so simple. We were young, clueless, and just going with the flow of what our parents wanted. Then came the middle school years and team unity days, we were so awkward and thought we were cool and rebellious with cell phones and texting in class, while trying to avoid getting caught by the teacher. Then in high school, we finally found ourselves and who we were. We made our friend groups a little smaller and we were beginning to make the world, the one that we wanted to live in.
Now that we sit here on graduation day we can look back at the successes and accomplishments we have created and received. Vince Lombardi once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” Almost as sure as the world spinning, there has been a time where you have wanted to give up and stop caring; maybe you caught a case of senioritis. While tonight it seems that all of our troubles are going to wash away, more likely than not, you are going to have a lot more problems and struggles that will occur, but don’t let these discourage you.

As I look back on the things that I have done in my life, one thing that really sticks out to me is playing baseball. I started playing when I was five years old. One big thing that I have learned over the years is that everyone fails, but it is playing baseball that helped me realize these next few lessons. On the baseball field, we are told that a player who succeeds three out of ten times is a considered a great player. Failing a couple times does not make you a bad person or a failure, it means that you are human. I have also been taught that there is more likely than not going to be another chance. If you strike out, you can’t give up, you go back to the dugout and wait for the next turn to try again. There will be another chance to make up for the mistake. Never give up because the next chance will come and a time when you least expect it.

After we leave this ceremony tonight I want to ask all of you to thank everyone that has gotten you to this point today, whether it is your parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc. I would like to thank the important people in my life at this time. Throughout the years we have made some incredible friends. Some, like my Rupert family, have been there since the beginning. Then there is the band family, the ones we met in fourth-­fifth grade and then really became close to in middle school. And in some cases, you meet friends in your senior year of high school, and you become so close so fast, they end up being your prom date.

PHS Salutatorian Nicholas Ervin
Next, I would like to say thank you to all of the teachers that have helped me and taught me throughout my four years here. You guys are the reason that I can stand here today. You are amazing people and I would not want another group of teachers to give me the education I have gotten. However, I would like to give a special thank you to Mrs. Martinez. You were truly my school mother. I haven’t had you since sophomore year, but yet I still think I managed to have a conversation with you every day for the past four years. You would let me sit in your room on my free blocks and bother you, or if I had a problem, you were always there to listen. Thank you so much for everything that you have done for me through the past four years.

Now for the family. Or well my second families, baseball and band. The other players on the baseball team have helped me grow into the person I am to today, and have helped teach me the lessons I spoke about earlier. I would like to thank the Mullens, Robinsons, Wolfels, Pennypackers, Owens, and Gebhards. Whether it was giving a ride to an away game, or simply giving an extra drink if we would run out. You have helped me throughout my life in more ways than you guys can imagine. Next, for the band. Some of the best people I have met in my life have come from the band. I am giving a special thanks to all the band moms out there. They really care about us. Sometimes, they knew what we needed before we did, and they always had it ready when we asked.

Next I would like to thank my aunts and uncles. Thank you for everything that you have done for me throughout my 18 years, no matter how big or small.

My grandparents. Mommom and Poppop White. You are what I would consider the all American grandparents. You can find them at almost anything. Whether it be award ceremonies, banquets, band concerts, football games, or baseball games, chances are if I was there playing or performing, they were there to watch and cheer me on. Mommom and Poppop Irvin. They may not have always been there in person, but I would like to imagine that they were always there in spirit and I am sure tonight is no different. While my grandmother is here, my grandfather is not. On April 21, 2013, my grandfather had passed away. So far, that has been the toughest day of my life. While he was proud of my cousins and I, when he passed away, I was more determined than ever to make sit on this stage tonight and make him even more proud than he already was. Buppy, you may not be here in person, but I know you are here in spirit to hear me say that I love you and I hope that I am making you proud each and every day.

My sisters. Where do I even begin with them? Hannah, you have taught me more than you probably think. You have taught me how to be determined. When you want something you go and get it. That is a trait that I have really learned from you. Jessica. You are one of the funniest people I have ever met. While Hannah has taught me how to be determined, you have taught me to not forget to have fun along the way. You two have helped me more than you can imagine and I could not be more proud to call you two or anybody else my sisters.

Finally, Mom and Dad. As I stand here speaking to you today, I hope that you are proud to call me your son, even though I know you guys tell me you are every night. You have been there for me every step of the way, and I know that you will be with me for the rest of the steps that there are. Whether it was the dumb little questions my dad would ask me every day when I got home from school, or the times when they would ask if I needed help with my homework. Even though I would always tell them no, they never stopped asking. While the questions may have been annoying every day, I am glad they were asked because it showed me that you truly cared. I love you guys from all depths of my heart and I could not be happier to call you my parents and I would not take another set over you guys any day.

I want to end with one final quote. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Keep this in mind as you go on in your life. Don’t be afraid to be different. Put yourself out there. If you want something go for it and don’t be afraid if someone tells you that you can’t. Use their doubt as motivation to fuel your fire and prove them wrong.

Once again thank you to everyone mentioned and congratulations class of 2015, I couldn’t have imagined going through this experience with another group of people. Thank you.
Finally, we give you the remarks of Superintendent Jeff Sparagana:
Good Evening and welcome parents, family members, school board directors, staff members, honored guests and most importantly 135th consecutive graduating class of senior students from the Pottstown High School.

This event marks Pottstown School District as one of the oldest diploma granting public school systems in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In fact, as you know last year we celebrated our 175th anniversary as a school system

To the graduates: you are to be commended for achieving this goal.

We are all very proud of you accomplishments. Last evenings Baccalaureate ceremony was a just wonderful tribute to the class of 2015.

Did you know that you can be born in Pottstown and within the borough’s 5.5 square miles you can experience high quality: Pre Kindergarten education through PSD or PEAK; elementary and middle level education and then attend a comprehnsive high school; be dual enrolled or participate in the early College program, and receive college credit while in high school; as well as get an associate’s degree at MONTCO or four year degree through the articulation agreements it has with 4 year universities while not leaving the borough.

As you are about to join the ranks of 134 years of alumni and take your position in our
Superintendent Jeff Sparagana
society, I want to share a few facts about your collective efforts as the Class of 2015.
  • · Your class is made up of 172 students (92 girls and 80 boys). 
  • · 32% or 55 of you started your public education as Kindergarten students here in Pottstown. 
  • · 33% or 56 of you are going on to attend a four year college or university. 
  • · 17% or 29 of you are going on to attend a two year college or university. 
  • · 18% or 31 of you have already secured a full-time position in the world of work. 
  • · 8% or 13 of you are going on to attend technical-trade school. 
  • · 5% or 8 of you remain undecided as to your next stop. 
  • · 3% or 6 of you have already joined a branch of the armed services. 
Just in case you were not keeping track - 58% of the class of 2015 has chosen to further their education and a total of 79% have made a decision as to their future.

These are commendable numbers and deserve our applause.

Each year we tell the story of Pottstown High School and our outstanding students, families, staff, and administration.

The proof of any successful school system is NOT measured by the School Performance Profile, the Keystone exam or a co-curricular event.

The measure of a successful school system is the end product – its senior graduates of which there are in this our 176th anniversary year is over 19,000 strong. Our graduates have gone on to distinguished careers in many fields including – business, medicine, education, science, the military, entertainment, and other aspects of the Arts, architecture, engineering, college professors, the area of government, law enforcement, just about every field imaginable has been effected by our Graduates. ???

This event, today, is where the rubber meets the road! Remember, today is an important benchmark in your journey but none the less, just a benchmark, and an important one at that. However, you should know that in this fast paced, digital world of 2015 – 70% of post secondary jobs today require an associate’s degree or equivalent to be employable.

That is why I remind you that this evenings accomplishment although commendable and cause for celebration is just a step in the process of your development, a page in the book, maybe a chapter, but clearly not the final chapter in your book of personal growth and development through education, and most definitely not the final step along your path to success in this life. Graduates you are prepared to go out and compete in this global world we live in, but I remind you in order to compete and WIN you must continue to grow and develop by advancing your education and building your skill set.

As you have heard, some of your classmates are entering the world of work; going into the military; to a technical school; a community college; or a four year college. My message to you is, you cannot stop now.

The Class of 2015 has earned many awards over the years in a wide variety of categories, but today I am here to share with everyone listening that the Class of 2015 has earned a grand total of approximately $2,565,825.00 in scholarships, grants and awards. This is the highest total of any graduating class in recent memory.

I commend the Class of 2015 for your perseverance, determination and dedication to yourselves, your families and your school community. Class of 2015 - You make us all “Proud to be from Pottstown”!

A “wise man once said ” when asked: “What is the key to Happiness and a meaningful life?”
  • · Good Health 
  • · Meaningful Work 
  • · Having love in your life 
Graduates - I wish each of these for all of you! Congratulations!


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