The Kutztown Area High School community watched as 99 graduates walked across the stage to receive their diplomas during Commencement on June 4.

“Being such a small school, we have the ability to know each other on a deeper level,” said Senior Class President Ramsi Ross. “While reminiscing of all of the memories of the past 13 years, I can’t help but laugh, cry and smile at all of the funny and crazy moments we’ve had as a class.”

Ross said to live life to the fullest, laugh and love a lot, and to take risks.

“You all will go places, you all have potential,” said Ross. “I can’t wait to watch all of us continue to grow as students, adults, parents and eventually grandparents. We come from a small school … Look around this is a family. We are the Class of 2019 and we will forever be the Class of 2019 from Kutztown High School.”

Salutatorian Alexander Graff credits his work ethic, confidence and the support of the people in his life for his high school successes.

“Hard work does indeed equal success,” said Graff. “Through it all -- the blood, sweat, tears, injuries and heartbreak — I am so satisfied to say that I am part of a team to bring home a District title to Kutztown. I am proud to represent the blue and white.”

Valedictorian Madison Keiser said a report card is a small portion of what they’ve learned and does not show hobbies, volunteerism, life experiences and overcoming adversity.

“My best advice that I can give you is to continue taking on challenges. Learning doesn’t stop after you leave Kutztown, it’s a life-long process. You will mess up but if you go through life with a strong will … you will change for the better,” said Keiser. “Life will get rough … You have to stay strong and power through.”

The 2019 Distinguished Alumni, Dr. Michael Karch, Class of 1987, gave the Commencement Address.

An orthopedic surgeon, entrepreneur, inventor, educator and cattle rancher, Karch specializes in orthopedic trauma and adult reconstruction of the hip and knee.

Karch said the Class of 2019 is joining “our team.” “This game that we’re going to play, starting tomorrow morning, is unlike any game you’ve played before… There are going to be times when you lose; there’s going to be times when you fail; there’s going to be times when you cry.”

He has completed 53 marathons, 6 Iron-Distance Triathlons and is a 2-time finisher of the Badwater 146-mile Ultra-marathon race across Death Valley, touted as the most challenging human endurance footrace on Earth.

“(Never) did I ever think about running 146 miles. I only allowed myself to think about running one mile perfectly… running one-lap, one quarter lap… 10 perfectly executed steps repeated… All I had to do was run 10 steps.”

In the middle of the desert, he quit on his dream, it wasn’t fun anymore. Then, his new dream was to reach the support van, so he broke it down to 10 feet, then 10 steps, then step by step. And then he crossed the finish line.

“We take these big dreams and big visions that we have — this is how we get to the finish line of life — and we break them down into steps … One thing we never do, if we’re going to be successful at anything, is we never allow ourselves to quit on a dream because it isn’t fun anymore. Who said it was supposed to be fun every step of the way?”

Whether its trade school, college, military, keeping a job, parenting or marriage, the start and finish will be fun, but it’s the middle ground where things are going to get tough and you will get knocked down and you’ll want to quit. It’s exactly there when you will have to work and keep walking, said Karch.

“Class of 2019, I know exactly where you are right now. I was on this stage. I know the dreams you have… I know how scary it is… Take the first step.”

“Once you start walking, you’re going to start realizing some things about yourself. This dream, no matter how big or small, it’s not going to happen overnight … and it’s not going to be easy.”

“Class of 2019, what’s stopping you from flying?” he asked. “What’s stopping you from leading this most exceptional team?”

Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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