Class of 2017 says a ‘proper goodbye’ to Parkland High School
Looking forward to the future while appreciating the past was a theme that ran throughout the Parkland High School Class of 2017 graduation June 12 at PPL Center, Allentown.
In front of a full house crowd of family and friends, the students marched two-by-two in procession to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” played by Parkland’s High School Band, until the last of the 773 red-and-gray clad soon-to-be graduates sat neatly in rows, nearly filling the floor of the venue.
Following the singing of the Alma Mater and the national anthem, Class of 2017 President Cara Haring addressed her classmates.
She began by asking them what exactly was so important about the ceremony of graduation.
“Some of us may be wondering, what the big deal is, why would we care about waiting for several hours after a day of rehearsal just to walk across the stage?” Haring asked rhetorically.
She answered simply, “Because tonight’s conclusion officially signifies what we have all been so hungrily waiting for, the unknown and the crazy adventures it entails.”
Haring then asked her classmates to reflect back in their anticipation of the future.
“While we all sit here and wait for bigger and better things, I would like to make sure we remember the place that made these future opportunities possible,” Haring said. “I would like hopefully to do it justice, and most importantly, say a proper goodbye.”
Haring then offered heartfelt thanks on behalf of her class to the Parkland School District community.
“We all have the one teacher, coach or advisor who has changed us in the best possible way,” Haring said. “These teachers put their heart and their soul in their work ... and we thank the incredible force of nature that is the Parkland faculty.”
Haring again noted, the hardest part is to say goodbye, assuring, however, they have all been well-prepared to “write our tickets anywhere.”
“Parkland High School is a place where we failed, succeeded, but most importantly grew,” Haring said. “While we were busy making all of our mistakes and relationships at Parkland, it was busy making us into the people we are today.”
Following her speech, she invited President of the Class of 2018 Robert Carlson to come on stage and presented him with the class key, a time-honored Parkland tradition.
Also a tradition, the Parkland High School Chorale sang a beautiful rendition of “I Love you/What a Wonderful World,” leaving many students and parents pulling out tissues.
Student speaker Alyssa Reynard was next to address the graduates. She was chosen through a competitive process by a committee to speak on this special day.
Corroborating the theme of celebrating the future and remembering the past, Reynard asked her classmates to remember the different stages in their lives.
“Suddenly here we are: adults about to enter the adult world,” Reynard said. “Up to this point, each year of our lives from 1 year to 18 years is stacked up inside of us, making up the current height and intelligence that stands in front of you today.”
She summarized the experiences from elementary school through high school and the lessons learned, and encouraged the class to make good choices as they ask themselves, “What do we do now?”
“As we move forward in our lives, I hope all of you are able to pull your inner child out from underneath your young adult selves and use their optimistic spirit to create whatever future you want to have.
“Choose to embrace the 3-year-old version of yourself who wouldn’t stop talking and say what you mean. Use your 7-year-old confidence to believe in yourself and get what you want. Find your fun-loving 12-year-old and do something that scares you … like speak at your graduation for example.
“The mistake people make as they grow up is they forget about all of these other versions of themselves they spent so long creating.
“They become absorbed in adult problems and they forget to choose another way of looking at the world.”
She concluded by inspiring her graduating friends to never forget how they feel on this day and challenged them to make difficult choices.
“Build a future that is overflowing with wonderfully difficult choices that will do nothing but satisfy the dreams of every age you have had the privilege to experience,” Reynard said.
And then, it was time to begin the presentation of awards and the conferral of degrees.
Assistant Principal Theresa Stack announced the National Honor Society Award recipients who had been honored the prior week during a separate ceremony.
Superintendent Richard Sniscak greeted everyone and presented awards to the top 3 percent of the Class of 2017, who wore red graduation cords recognizing their accomplishments.
“Tonight is about celebrating the memories of the past while holding great expectations for the future,” Sniscak told the students.
Principal James Moniz then officially presented the Class of 2017 to the school board of directors.
School board Vice President Lisa Roth accepted the class, and she along with Sniscak flanked both sides of the stage as the awarding of degrees began.
Each of the graduates approached the stage in orderly fashion and when their names were called, they climbed the stage to celebrate their success.
The presenting of diplomas was captured in a split screen on the giant jumbotron, providing a close up view for family in friends from high above.
When the final graduates returned to their seats, Moniz once again congratulated the class. They then turned their tassels and many tossed their caps.
When Roth addressed the graduates earlier, she asked the class to recall a popular Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
And steer themselves they did, armed with bright red diplomas and full of smiles and waves, they exited as they had entered, two-by-two, during the recessional march, anxious to meet up outside with family and friends.