“That diploma that you receive tonight is really just your learner’s permit for the rest of your life,” said Steven Keifer, Hamburg Area School District Superintendent, to the 176 students of the class of 2014 at their graduation on June 6.
Held inside the gym, the seniors marched in following past teachers and administrators. Women in white and men in red, the soon to be graduates made their way past the numerous camera flashes to their seats for the start of the ceremony.
“I am completely humbled and honored to welcome you as this year’s salutatorian to the graduation of the class of 2014. The most amazing class on the face of this earth,” said honor speaker Tyler Seidel. “To celebrate this, let me first take a selfie.”
Seidel and valedictorian Jeffrey Galczynski reminisced about their experiences at Hamburg Area High School and encouraged their fellow classmates to embrace change and to keep moving forward.
“We build upon whatever experiences that we have,” said Galczynski.
After explaining about the class of 2014 being the test subjects for a number of the school’s programs including the laptop program during which the students had the challenge of finding a plug so that their computer would last through class and the new Keystone exams, he spoke about being in situations when it felt “we’re way over our heads.”
“That’s just how life ends up,” said Galczynski. “We have to fight and struggle through it. We still have to keep going. We will end up stronger for that experience.”
One of the experiences that the young adults will face is meeting new people.
“In just three months from now we’ll be saying ‘hello’ to thousands of new and amazing people,” said Seidel. “But at the same time it makes me horribly sad because it all means saying ‘goodbye’ to 176 people that I have spent every day with for the past 13 years.”
He continued, “Change makes you smarter. Every time you learn a new skill you are that much more smarter than you were yesterday. So embark on this next chapter of your life. I strongly advise you to openly say ‘hello’ to new things.”
Galczynski acknowledge the community at the school for helping to shape he and his classmates into the people that they are at this moment.
“We developed so many memories just being together. We will build ourselves even higher,” he said. “It’s what we do with these experiences, how we constantly learn from them that matters.”
Seidel referred to a famous quote from the beloved Winnie the Pooh.
Christopher Robin said, “Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”
Pooh thought for a little. “How old shall I be then?”
“Ninety-nine,” said Robin.
Pooh nodded, “I promise”
“So I promise to never forget the years that I spend with you all walking the halls of Hamburg Area High,” said Seidel. “Not even when I’m 100. Thank you to the class of 2014 for making the past four years an unforgettable experience I will cherish in my heart for a lifetime.”
While remembering the moments at Hamburg Area High, Galczynski encouraged his classmates to new stop moving toward their goals.
“Perfection is an idea, not a state of being. It is not even a clear idea,” he said. “Find out what you want and pursue it.”
After the honor speakers and commencement remarks from Keifer during which he ran through a few of the accomplishments of the class of 2014, it was time for the presentation of awards followed by the presentation of diplomas. Following the graduation proclamation was the passing of the gavel from Anna Ulrich, class president of 2014 to Kristen Wade, class president of 2015.
When it came time for Seidel to end his speech, he joked about it being the time to use some rap quote or a “we did it.” Or even the “We started in kindergarten and now we’re here. Or we started in kindergarten and now most of us are here.”
Instead he ended with a quote from one of his favorite songs that he felt fit the moment perfectly.
“I’m losing twelve years’ worth of soul mates and it’s harder and realer than anything I’ve ever felt.”