Alvernia University was bursting with smiles June 9 as the 2018 graduating class of Twin Valley High School streamed into the Physical Education Center. The crowd spilled into every possible seat, extending to the rafters. The majesty of Pomp and Circumstance carried the march of 284 graduates including its five sets of twins, along with school dignitaries.
Different colors told their story: gold collar, National Honor Society; gold cord, Honor Graduate with GPAs of 3.6 plus; red cord, 4-time Blood Donor; green and white, Student Council; red and gold Spanish Honor Society; red, gold and black German Honor Society; red, white, and blue French Honor Society and rainbow tassels National Art Honor Society.
Salutatorian David Gao, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ting Gao of Honey Brook, greeted the crowd, “No matter how you feel about today or the several years you have spent at the school on the hill, never forget about the people in your lives during your time at Twin Valley. I challenge you all to embrace the unknown… take in the differences. A Villanova University belief, ‘it is our similarities that make us strong; but our difference that make us stronger.”
Principal William Clements spoke to the class success, “This class was offered over $3 million in grants and scholarships, $110,000 provided through the generosity of our local community. They earned 200 industry certificates and awards in technology, 28,000 hours were served in internships, College acceptance letters reached 320, over 197 graduates pursuing postsecondary education, 11 graduates are joining the military, and 58 will contribute to the workforce.”
He announced that two students will compete nationally at the Technology Student Association in Atlanta, Georgia; two received FFA’s Keystone Degree, their highest school award; student athletes won medals in swimming, wrestling, track and field, and cross country; musicians performed state-wide; artists displayed their work regionally and nationally.
Championships for cross country, softball, and field hockey were won. Twin Valley earned its 1st district softball title in 38 years. Their crowning jewel was winning the Berks Goodman-Stewart Sportsmanship Award for the second consecutive year
They embraced ‘pay it forward’ with multiple drives for local food banks and charities, supplying holiday gifts to 140 children and $12,000 in food to local families. Mr. Twin Valley competition benefited Reading’s Hope Rescue Mission; 44 students held blood drives that saved 1,200 lives; and the senior Mini-Thon, raised nearly $30,000 for Four Diamond’s pediatric cancer and research.
Clements quoted billionaire investor and philanthropist Henry Kravis, “If you don’t have integrity, you have nothing. You can’t buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing. My advice to you is to think honestly, speak honestly, and act with integrity. In doing so, you will find any missteps you may make easier to recover from and, all achievements that much sweeter.”
Twin Valley Superintendent Dr. Robert Pleis outlined four secrets of success, have a vision, don’t try to do it all alone, embrace change and overcome failures. Reminding them of Winston Churchill’s words, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
Class officers Gabrielle Lynch and Rachael Ressel presented gifts to the district, the high school lobby’s tile mosaic from art students, updates to modernize the library including a chrome book charging station, and a rare book display case, plus a scholarship for a 2019 graduate.
Katilyn Griffith class speaker stepped forth, “Throughout these four years we have conquered love and loss, and made fond memories out of every experience…look back and cherish every little moment. When we were young our parents and elders asked us what we want to be when we grew up?”
She reflected, “at 5 firefighter, Hanna Montana; at 10 surgeon, rock star; at 14 lawyer, vet. But now it is for REAL. Our elders ask one more time; we are one step closer to WHO, not what. “Whatever you do, be unconditionally happy.”
Ken Keyes, Jr., says, “Every day is a gift of the universe~ even joy, anger, jealously, or separateness, everything is perfect either for our growth or our enjoyment. Have courage and be kind in everything you do.”
Valedictorian Jacob Kennedy, son of Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Kennedy of Birdsboro, closed Commencement saying, “Life is amazing. We’ve been thinking these past four years took forever, each day creeping by, our parents have been wondering where has all the time gone...”
Kennedy offered advice. “Do yourself a favor, enjoy life! Listen, laugh, smile, agree and then do whatever you were gonna do anyway. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
Quoting Mark Twain, he said, “So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Captain America says, “Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move; You’re to plant yourself, like a tree beside the river of truth; and tell the whole world, No, you move!”
“I introduce to you the Twin Valley Class of 2018.”