Falconer Class Of 2017 Encouraged To Follow Dreams

Pictured is Salutatorian Elizabeth Becker addressing Falconer Central School’s graduating class of 2017 on Thursday at the Reg Lenna Center for The Arts. P-J photo by A.J. Rao

FALCONER — With a little help from a mason jar and a clever binge-watching reference, the message for Falconer Central School’s graduating class of 2017 became abundantly clear: live life to the fullest and never forget the things that make it important.

On Thursday, 69 graduating seniors graced the stage at the Reg Lenna Center for The Arts, where they received diplomas, awards and a fair share of wisdom, particularly from guest speaker Todd Beckerink, a criminal investigator with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and 1987 graduate of Falconer Central School.

Beckerink shared a story about a Little League baseball team he once coached and how one of his players suddenly became nervous when stepping up to bat for the winning run. Despite his nerves — and even after wetting his pants — the player managed to hit a home run, thanks in large part to Beckerink’s promise to douse him in water at home plate to disguise his “accident.”

Each and every one of you have had great coaches who support you, Beckerink said, and “all of you can hit that ball.”

“You’ve had years of coaching … and it’s now time for you to play the game of life,” Beckerink said. “In baseball, as in life, you will strike out, you will hit a pop fly, you will get a hit, maybe a home run. But sometimes in life, you will get hit by a pitch (in which case) you get up off the ground and go to first base … the game goes on.”

Beckerink then displayed an empty mason jar and had various students fill it with golf balls, pebbles and sand.

The jar, he said, represents life, and its contents the things that tend to occupy our time.

“The golf balls are the important things … your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions,” he said. “If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles represent your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else … the small stuff. If you put the sand in the jar first, there’s no room for the pebbles and the golf balls. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you’ll never have time for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.”

Salutatorian Elizabeth Becker gave fellow students a comforting message on graduating, comparing the end of high school to the end of a television show.

“As we finish a show series, I know for me — it’s devastating,” Becker said. “I get so involved in the character’s lives and drama that when the show ends, I feel like I’ll never find another show as good as that one. Yet I always seem to find another show and sometimes it’s even better than the one that I never wanted to end.”

Graduating high school, she said, is the “finale to season one of your own show.”

“In this show, you are the main character and the director … you get to decide what will happen next,” she said. “No matter what you do next, make your show worth watching.”

Valedictorian Matthew Eskeli thanked all those who supported the class of 2017 and reflected on the fond memories of being a Falconer student.

“As we get older, these memories will start to fade and we’ll no longer remember these memories based on periods, quarters and years … but rather, we’ll remember the good times and the friendships we shared together,” Eskeli said.

Before awards and diplomas were handed out, Stephen Penhollow, Falconer Central School superintendent, encouraged students to pursue their dreams.

“Tonight is a fresh new start for you,” he said. “Have the courage to follow your heart and your dreams. As you enter into this next phase and into this new world, always remember that your career is what you choose to do and yet it doesn’t define the person that you are … enjoy your life.”

At the end of the recessional, parents and guests were invited to join the graduates at Tracy Plaza for the cap toss.