Caps were sent flying in the Sovereign Center Friday night as 342 students were pronounced the 57th graduating class of Exeter Township Senior High School.
They may have walked in to the venue as high school students with many shared experiences since elementary school, but they walked out as individuals headed in many different directions.
Class of 2012 president Erin Okoniewski said that even with the rough spots, she wouldn't trade her high school experience for anything.
'Everything that has happened to us, that we've been through, has made us who we are today. And so today is the day. For the last 18 years of our lives, everything we've accomplished, everything we've been through has led us to today,' Okoniewski said. 'I remember being that little kid and thinking 'wow wait until I'm an eighth grade – that day will never come'. But look at us now.'
She said high school 'taught us to become independent, to stickup for ourselves and to work together; we learned how to succeed, how to find out who we are and who our true friends are.'
For Salutatorian Caitlyn Plank, the past four years 'have gone by ridiculously fast.' She told her classmates that she hopes they don't look back on high school as the great years, because they have the potential for greater years ahead.
'It's been good, it's been bad, maybe you liked high school, and maybe you didn't. Whatever – it shaped us. If we had gone to different schools we would be different people. Whether you were popular or bullied or somewhere in between, it has made you who you are. And I don't know about you but I like who I am,' Plank said.
Valedictorian Kaitlyn Price told her classmates they all have the power to make a difference, and she encouraged them to 'be the change they want to see in the world,' as they leave to start their new lives in college, the military, technical school or the work force.
'Everyone always says you are starting a new chapter when you graduate high school, but remember, you're not reading a book, you're writing it,' Price said.
She read a poem by Linda Ellis called 'The Dash.' The poem refers to the dash on a tombstone between the year someone was born and the year they die. The dash represents all the years in between – the life a person leads. The poem encourages people to live their lives fully and to make a difference for others:
'For it matters not how much we own,
The cars, the house, the cash What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.'