The Kutztown Area High School Class of 2018 sat on stage in front of an auditorium full of family, friends and educators during the 102nd annual Commencement on June 8.

“We’ve been comfortable with the way we live each day in our daily routines with the same people by our side, but now is our time to be uncomfortable, to embrace the changes that lie ahead and to face new challenges head on. We will be tested in a way that we’ve never been tested before, out on our own starting fresh,” said Class President Emma Kyle during the Senior Class Welcome.

Kyle said the Class of 2018 has potential and drive for success.

“I have no doubt that we will be the change we hope to see in this world. I know every one of us will find success as we graduate to the next stage of our lives. The future is ours for the taking and tomorrow is where it begins,” said Kyle.

Salutatorian Madison Sheetz compared life to running.

“Each and every one of you runs in your own different way. After leaving Kutztown Area High School, you have a destination in mind. Your path is already carved out,” said Sheetz. “There will be a lot of hills, valleys and winding roads along your journey. Some of you will veer off the path and start anew. Others will try to follow those that are ahead. But no matter how you choose to run your race, realize there will always be somebody ahead of you and behind you.”

Sheetz advised graduates to run with their eyes forward because they cannot change what is in the past but they can dictate how they proceed into the future. She stressed the importance of being open minded about what lies in front of them.

“Class of 2018, your race thus far has brought you to this stage tonight, and that is something to be extremely proud of,” said Sheetz. “Live boldly, love passionately, laugh hysterically and venture fearlessly. We only have this one chance in life so make it count and have some fun.”

Valedictorian Kaitlin Kelly told graduates to create something for themselves through hard work, perseverance and dedication to achieve their goals in life.

“If you want something, you have to reach out and grab it on your own,” said Kelly. “If you put everything into your goals and dreams, you will eventually get them, even if it seems to take forever. The best things in life take time.”

After 13 years, Kelly said they are finally done, but this is only the beginning.

“Try your hardest at everything you do and try to build life-long dreams,” said Kelly. “As Mr. Flicker says, ‘Hard work will take you places.’”

Kutztown Area School District also recognized 2018 Distinguished Alumni Julie Stark, Class of 1979, and posthumously Keith Haring, Class of 1976. Haring was a world-renowned artist of the late 20th century. Stark worked in New York City for 10 years in photography, advertising and television in digital compositing and exploring other work in visual effects. She then moved to Los Angeles and worked in visual effects in the film industry for 25 years. She contributed to and worked on “The Golden Compass” in 2008, “Happy Feet” in 2007, and “Django Unchained” in 2013. More recently, she moved to Kempton and started a raw juice business, Stark Juice LLC which was established in 2014.

Stark encouraged the graduates to not be afraid to challenge themselves and leave their comfort zone.

“It’s a whole lot of climbing up and falling down, climbing up and falling down,” said Stark. “New dreams are the only dreams that matter... Everyday there were new obstacles and challenges... In speaking to you now, I find solace and peace in my path up to this moment.”

Standing in front of the graduates on the same stage where she graduated high school in 1979, Stark said, “I can see the future in your eyes and I can see great things from all of you.”

“Class of 2018, be fearless and be true to yourselves,” said Stark. “You can always come back to this shore. Kutztown will always be here for you... Don’t be afraid to dream. Don’t be afraid to lose sight of the shore.”

Commencement Speaker Dale Reppert, Kutztown Class of 1975 and former Kutztown School Board member and a Kutztown University alumnus, offered a few words of wisdom about the detours of life. While a vice president at a large investment firm, Reppert found his life detoured after undergoing brain surgery and contracting a deadly form of bacterial meningitis which spiraled into septic shock. Reppert has since become a business owner, volunteer tennis coach and author of “Detour to Heaven: One Man’s True Journey.”

“How many of you, over the past 12 years, have had everything go perfectly right?” Reppert asked the graduates, to receive laughter from both on stage and in the audience. “It never does, does? You can count your detours along the way. I’ve had a few of my own in my life... Everything that you have had happened to you over the past 12 years have brought you to this moment in time. Your path brought you here. And for that I say job well done.”

His advice to graduates is to put in hard work to build a foundation. Take something good from every day. Lead a balanced life. Enjoy life. He said there will be many challenges in life but what is important is to face those challenges with optimism.

“I believe you can accomplish anything in life through hard work and determination,” said Reppert. “I believe you can overcome any detour.”

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