One hundred twenty seniors paraded across the Tulpy blue and gold shield at center field as they marched proudly across the stadium to the band playing “Pomp and Circumstance” - towards the culmination of their high school experience. Hundreds of Tulpehocken graduates’ proudest supporters filled the soccer stadium to celebrate - many with props including signs, balloons and even an air horn.
Jaime Fisher, valedictorian and class president, spoke of time and the class’s perception of it – a year ago, a few months ago, weeks ago, days ago, and moments ago. She referred back to 2008, when the Bernville and Bethel kids joined together as strangers but with three commonalities: there was no longer a traffic light in the cafeteria telling you that you were too loud, they all had to learn to maneuver through junior high – the whole one hallway that it was, and they all had to meet new people. Those strangers were not strangers anymore; they all evolved into “Tulpy kids” – and she expressed hope that this wasn’t a “goodbye” but a “see you later.”
Fisher said that their lack of numbers in student population has been to their benefit as a learning experience – referencing the school’s achievements as District Champions and producing County and District Chorus members, young Ag leaders, top prize winners at the County art show, and being deemed the most successful school at the math exams. She referenced it as proof that one should always remember their roots – that you can be “small but mighty.”
Fisher referred to their class quote: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” She told her class to make sure they live their own kind of right, and warned them that “your right will be made up of countless wrongs and missteps along the way. For all you know, the wrongs will fit in the big picture in ways you never expected.”
Dalton Scharff, salutatorian, also spoke of time and the old adage, “Time flying by…” - but not poetically so much as mathematically: “Time is not linear, as we have been taught, but perceived time is exponential – approaching a vortex at an unknown location in our future.” He explained that he’s done the math (and double-checked it) and that “the time up to your 18th birthday is 2x longer in perceived time than it is from your 18th to your 78th birthday.”
His point, among the laughs, was that the longest year of their life was behind them; and that the years ahead will feel shorter and shorter – but are the most important, so make them count. Scharff referred to their diploma as “tickets to your unknown and unimaginable future.”
The evening was accompanied by music from the band, chorus, and show choir. The choral selection – “I Was Here” – appropriately complemented the evening with lyrics stating, “I wanna do something better with the time I’ve been given, and I wanna try to touch a few hearts in this life - leave nothing less than something that says ‘I was here’.”
The presentation of awards demonstrated the diversity of the student population – their not so distant past as well as their plans for the future – granted by a variety of foundations, local civic groups, and merit programs. Some were designated for students planning careers in the military, medical field, electronics/technology, science, business, teaching, or farming/agriculture. Others were awarded to students for contributions to their school or their community, demonstrations of leadership, sportsmanship, or patriotism. Some awards were academic, others art or music-oriented, and many were sports-related.
As anticipated, the longest part of the evening was the presentation of diplomas; every student got their few moments in the spotlight as they accepted their ticket into the future and walked through the recession line and back to their seats. Many students created yet one more memory of their senior year by celebrating the acceptance of their diploma in their own unique ways; the most popular was giving the peace sign or thumbs up as they proceeded in front of their classmates. Some graduates waved to their families, held their diplomas high in jubilation, danced, froze and posed for photos, showed muscles, pointed at the crowd, or did a backwards jig. Others did their sporting chants one last time, and one student even stopped in front of his classmates to take a selfie as his friends in blue stood in the background. Many students preferred to just walk proudly – some slowly taking in the moment, and others speed walking because the end couldn’t come soon enough.
Jr. Sr. High School Principal Mr. Donald N. Jones closed out the evening with a quote from American Author Wilferd Arlan Peterson metaphorically comparing life to a canvas for which the graduate is the “painter of Life” – and the paint colors are their thoughts, emotions, and acts: “Each moment of your life is a brush stroke in the painting of your growing career. There are the bold, sweeping strokes of one increasing, dynamic purpose. There are the lights and shadows that make your life deep and strong. There are the little touches that add the stamp of character and worth. The art of achievement is the art of making life - your life - a masterpiece.”
Principal Jones cautioned the graduates to not forget the plan, because up to this point their canvas has been prescribed to them and now they’re own their own: “Your teachers have supplied the primer for the canvas; it is now up to you to choose the colors and paint your plan for the future. You have the tools, you have your knowledge and education, you have a strong support system… we are all anxious to see what your canvas looks like in 5, 10, 15 years. I have no doubt that you will make us all Tulpy proud.”