First, there were peonies.
A hallowed commencement tradition at Chautauqua Lake Central School is for members of the junior class to carry a multi-colored chain of peonies to the stage before the graduates take their seats.
And so began the graduation ceremony Thursday evening at CLCS, marking both an end and a beginning for 97 students from the Class of 2014.
Photo by Margot Russell
Members of the Chautauqua Lake Central School junior class carry the traditional peony chain into the gymnasium at commencement Thursday evening.
Family and friends filled the standing-room-only auditorium, and spilled over into the gym where the ceremony was broadcast to an overflow of guests in what proved to be an especially large turnout.
This year was the first year of a five-year tuitioning agreement for secondary students from Ripley to attend classes at Chautauqua Lake, integrating the students into one school. Two valedictorians and two salutatorians were chosen this year to honor both the achievements of CLCS students and the students joining the student body from Ripley.
Joshua Liddell, secondary principal, first asked graduates to acknowledge the parents and guardians who had helped them to reach this milestone in their lives. He also acknowledged the various paths the students aspired to, such as psychology, the armed forces, the law profession and future business owners.
Before Destiny Safford and Megan Stahlsmith, co-salutatorians, addressed the graduates, Superintendent Benjamin Spitzer encouraged family members and friends in the audience to introduce themselves to the person sitting next to them, as a way of acknowledging the union of the two student bodies and to celebrate the successful relationship that has been cultivated this year.
"I want to thank the Ripley School District for making the Chautauqua Lake Central School District even better," he said.
Stahlsmith urged students to "use fear as a motivating factor" and quoted Peter Pan as saying, "To live will be an awfully big adventure."
Safford thanked her teachers and mother, and asked that her fellow graduates "Never take a single person for granted."
The graduation ceremony at CLCS also incorporates another important tradition: Senior Commentaries - made up of individual commentaries written by teachers that personalize each graduating student. The commentaries commended each student for their contribution to the classroom, the sports field, the student body or the academic standing of the school.
"You've made us all proud," said one commentary, to a student who was entering the forensic science field, or "You were a delight to have in class," to another student who was planning to attend Jamestown Community College in the fall.
Emilie Christie, co-valedictorian, looked back on her school days, and said, "Tonight we celebrate not the first and not the last day, but all the days in between," and said she and her class welcomed the addition of the new students from Ripley.
"We celebrated our first day of senior year with new faces," she said, "but now we are one family from two different worlds."
Eve Taft, co-valedictorian, urged her classmates to "uncover pieces of yourself that you didn't know existed," and reminded them that the past will always be with them as long as they choose to remember it.
The CLCS high school band and chorus gave two rousing performances including "American Flourish," and "I Was There."
As students prepare to begin new adventures at colleges and institutions like Jamestown Community College, Penn State University, Jamestown Business College and the Rochester Institute of Technology, they will keep the words of Superintendent Benjamin Spitzer in mind, when he said, "Who knows what's ahead of us? But that's what makes life fun."
Photo by Margot Russell
Pictured, from left, are: Megan Stahlsmith, co-salutatorian; Emilie Christie, co-valedictorian; Eve Taft, co-valedictorian; and Destiny Safford, co-salutatorian, at Chautauqua Lake Central School's commencement Thursday evening. The district has co-valedictorians and salutatorians this year under a tuitioning agreement to accept grades 7-12 students from Ripley for the next five years.