Kutztown High School Class of 2014's commencement opened with 'One Moment in Time' by John Higgins as the graduates looked back at their years at Kutztown and looked forward to their future.
Highlights of the night included the traditional photo slide show prepared by Class of 2014 Historian Kasey Kline, 'A multimedia presentation that encapsulates the Kutztown experience,' said Principal Barry Flicker followed by the Class of 2014 and faculty filing into the auditorium aisles. Photos brought back memories and elicited laughter at times.
Another highlight was the commencement speech from Kutztown alumna Col. Stephen Fenstermacher, retired U.S. Marine.
'To all of the Marines in the audience, Semper Fi, oo-rah!'
Fenstermacher, a Kutztown resident who was named the 2014 Kutztown Area High School Distinguished Alumni, reminisced about his own graduation, sitting next to his high school sweetheart, who later became his wife. 'I'm happy to say she's still with me and I consider that to be one of my proudest achievements.'
Feeling it important to have a personal conversation with the graduates, he wanted to discuss their success, 'Your success at getting to this milestone, your success in the future.'
'An interesting thing about success is it's something we cannot usually achieve by ourselves. I like to think of it as a team event.'
A lot of people, large and small, do things to help in that success; parents, siblings, relatives, friends and teachers, applauding those who supported the seniors in getting them to graduation, he said. 'They wake us up, they lift us up, they motive us, they inspire us, they encourage us and they keep us on track.'
To achieve success, he recommended having a goal, a plan and a destination, 'Putting ourselves on that road means that we have to prepare.'
When opportunities present themselves, the more prepared, the more choices you'll have on what to do with those opportunities, he said.
In the Marines for 31 years, his family moved 17 times. 'During all those years away, Kutztown was always home base… This is a special place. And you have a wonderful foundation for whatever it is you want to do with the rest of your life because you were educated here. I cannot wait to hear the 130 success stories that come out of this class.'
He concluded, saying, 'The world is filled with opportunities just waiting for you to grab them. And you, my friends, are ready. Congratulations, God speed, and now you go get them!'
Valedictorian was Connor Mertz, and salutatorian was Skyler Fussner. The Senior Class Welcome was presented by Class of 2014 President Haley Bailey.
The seniors became graduates as they received their diplomas during the requested silence, with a few rebellious outbursts of cheers from family in the audience.
Through the Tears and the Cheers, Comments From Seniors and Their Families
By Roxanne RichardsonFor 21st Century Media
Wiping the tears that streamed down her face, Jocelyn Englehart said she is walking away from her senior year with a world view unlike any other.
'I studied abroad my junior year. I went to Mexico for an entire year and I studied in Spanish and it gave me such a view of the world that I don't think a lot of people have nowadays, especially not high school students, so I'm so happy to have that and I'm excited to use it in the world.'
Englehart is planning on majoring in Spanish to help with translation and interpretation. With a huge smile, she said, anything is possible.
'She is ready to spread her wings,' said Jocelyn's mom, Joanne. 'Kutztown gave her a great foundation-elementary school, middle school, high school-it was great. Her year in Mexico, her junior year, was even better. I mean she loved it; it just opened her eyes. That was the highlight of her whole education studying in Mexico.'
'I missed them, but it was just I was having so much fun and learning so much that I was like, this is so valuable, like nobody else can do this so I had to sort of put my feelings aside sometimes, but I talked to my family, like, everyday.'
'Skype is always a good thing,' said Joanne. 'She stayed with a great family and we were very happy with the whole year.'
Kendra Smith said, with a bit of dry humor, that she learned that you do not applaud during a graduation ceremony, but then, on a more serious note, added, 'Just do the best you can do at all times.'
Cindy Smith, Kendra's mom, said, 'This year has been a major growth for her; she has blossomed this year. She's very quiet into herself and she got involved in some sports this year and she had a lot of friends.'
As Nathan Onorofsky turned in his cap and gown after the ceremony he said, 'Since we have such a small school and such small classes, the teachers can really give us the attention that we need to thrive and they make sure that everyone is doing well and really look out for us on a personal level.'
Alyssa Button said through tears, 'I'm really happy my Dad got to be here for us. He's been a little over a year cancer free so I'm really glad he's here. I will look back on my time at high school. I will laugh at Alex running in the room in a tiger suit. It's been 10 years since my sister graduated, now I'm graduated, and I hope one day I'll be able to come back and walk through the building and just remember all the great times.'
Hannah Bankes said the teachers helped a lot with being able to learn new things and build study habits. She said she is walking away with lots of fond memories.