Local students celebrate with high school graduation ceremonies

Students at area high schools celebrated this weekend as Andes, Margaretville, Roxbury and Onteora central schools conferred diplomas on the graduating classes of 2009.
Seven seniors received diplomas at this year’s celebration in Andes on Friday night; Ethan Berghammer, Emery Brown, Jacob Coiro, Hope Egnaczak, Melody Grapes, Alexandria Rezac and Justin Weaver comprised the ACS Class of 2009. Andes seniors Hattie Brown and Melody Grapes shared valedictory honors this year and gave addresses. The Andes graduation also marked the last for ACS Superintendent John Bernhardt, who retired at the close of the 2008-09 school year.
Thirty-five Margaretville seniors participated in Saturday’s ceremony at MCS, led by valedictorian Kaitlin Buerge and salutatorian Julia Brophy. Graduating senior Robert Goodman performed an original vocal piece for his fellow graduates, followed by a performance of two vocal numbers by the senior ensemble. Margaretville alumna Marjorie Miller gave the graduation address.
Roxbury Central School honored its 18 graduates Saturday morning, at which valedictorian Karly Bolger and salutatorian Danyelle Greene offered senior addresses. Students enjoyed an address by guest speaker and fellow RCS alumna Lisa Faraci, who graduated from Roxbury in 1984.
A number of senior prizes and scholarship awards were also presented to graduates of all three schools.
Onteora Central School held its annual commencement ceremony Friday evening inside the gym due to thunderstorms that are notorious this time of year in the Catskill Mountains.
But for the 155 graduates that make up the Class of 2009, it couldn’t have been a better evening, as the gym’s walls made for an intimate setting that gave this event, for many the most important milestone of their lives to date, a warm and informal feel.
With slate blue clouds threatening more dark weather outside, the mood inside the gym was bright and exciting as students, staff, friends and family celebrated the graduation of students from West Hurley to Highmount and everywhere in between.
Enrica Rosato of Shandaken, Class of 2009 valedictorian, not only assured her classmates they would not go through life “as meek and mild members of society,” she also sang the song “Thankful,” made famous by vocalist Josh Grobin, because she felt its lyrics summed up what she wanted to say to her peers.
“Some days we forget to look around us, some days we can’t see the joy that surrounds us, so caught up inside ourselves, we take when we should give,” she sang.
Class President Kelsie Johnan reminisced about her entire school career, hitting notes familiar to anyone of any age, and admitted that plans and goals aside, the experience enriched her in unexpected ways.
“Shooting for the moon and landing on the stars was never really a bad thing,” she said.
The most heartfelt words came from John Iannotti, a social studies teacher retiring from a long stint at the Onteora Senior High School, who delivered the evening’s commencement address.
Obviously loved and respected by the Onteora community, Iannotti displayed his sense of humor and his social conscience as he spoke of his career and his life, noting that he came from a family with not only wealth, but also a darker side. “While some of the more elite family members, “ he said, “were trying to avoid the middle class, other family members were just trying to avoid incarceration.”
Always the educator, Iannotti explained to the captive audience that the American term “Idiot” was actually a term originally used in ancient Greek city-states to refer to people who were overly concerned with their own self-interest and ignored the needs of the community.
He said he was retiring knowing that Onteora has produced “a few more good citizens and a few less idiots.”
Before parting with a couple of trademark jokes, he said he was glad he ignored the words of advisors long ago who warned if he became a teacher “those kids will crush your soul into powder,” and moved forward instead.
This led to his more serious advice to the Class of 2009. “You must always move forward,” he said. “There are no excuses.”