Hundreds of area residents gathered in the Reg Lenna Civic Center on Friday evening to celebrate the graduation of 120 Southwestern Central School seniors.
The commencement ceremony began with the Southwestern Central School Orchestra, directed by Janice Carlson, performing "Glorioso" by Robert Smith. As the graduates made their way down the aisle toward their seats the orchestra played a processional "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar. The song was followed by a welcoming address by Veronica Schuver, honor society member, 2013 Distinguished Young Woman of Lakewood and recipient of several scholarships.
"Truly without the love and support of family and friends we would not be the young adults we are today ... Parents especially, for forming the foundation for our success," said Schuver. "We are proud to have made it, and thankful for everyone who came."
Upon completion of the welcoming address, the orchestra performed the "Star Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key. Aleksander Peck, graduating senior, then took the stage to introduce guests.
"Thank you to all these guests for helping our graduates make it to this point in our educational career," said Peck.
Rebecca Josephson and Madilyn Gerace, class and student council presidents, then gave their address.
"Most of the time, a graduation speech like this begins with a quote that is inspirational ... however, instead, we would like to quote a lady ... 'We're walking,'" said Gerace. "For those of you who do not know, this woman was a tour guide from one of the buses during senior trip."
"... Little did this tour guide know how much truth there is in her statement," said Josephson.
"Eighteen years ago today when we took our first step, we began walking, and we never stopped since," said Gerace. "In the future if we find ourselves on different paths, we will still be walking. ... It is by walking that we will make a difference."
"We are up here to remind you to thank all the people that tied your shoes for the miles ahead, and that will keep you walking in the future," said Josephson.
Erica Stevens, salutatorian, offered a motivating speech which listed nine rules that one of her teachers bestowed upon her and many other students.
"This is it, we've made it to graduation with only a few bumps and bruises from the journey," said Stevens. "Now, all highschoolers have, at one point or another, complained that they are never going to use this stuff again. Sure, we're all going into different fields, and our class will end up covering every end of the job spectrum. But, the truth is, when you really think about it, we've learned so much more in these past fours years at Southwestern than just math, science, social studies and English."
Conner Forsberg, valedictorian, followed with a speech regarding cosmology, science and the role humans take in the shaping of the fate of the planet.
"I wish to lend a bit of perspective today," said Forsberg. "Perspective humbles us, inspires us and it can ground us to reality. Modern cosmology, the study of the realities of our universe lends a perspective quite unlike any other. It's upsetting for many, offering uncomfortable and unfamiliar truths about our existence, but I think that makes it all the more interesting."
Forsberg continued by speaking about the "click" that created the universe, and how it marked the beginning of time and existence as humans know it.
"In other words, everything that we know, have ever known or will ever know," continued Forsberg. " ... Humans for ages have searched for our purpose in the greater scheme of things, if not for something to give us a purpose. ... But, to science there is no purpose for humanity other than to find the truth - no matter how foreign, uncomfortable or inconvenient it may be. ... For the individual, your purpose is yours to make and shape ... - use it wisely."
Keynote speaker Mary Glance, senior human resource executive and 1995 graduate of Southwestern Central School, addressed the 2013 graduates during the ceremony with a speech that touched upon four points: Shine, wonder, connect and smile.
"You may face adversity, rejection, defeat, heartache, inequality, financial hardship, sickness and pain, but how you respond determines if you will find happiness and if you will be successful, " said Glance. "And, if your day isn't going your way, just remember that you always get a new chance to try again tomorrow. It takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow, so when it's raining, just keep working hard and know that a rainbow will appear soon.
"The most important thing to remember is that it is not what you do, but who you are," continued Glance. "What matters most to people is not what college you went to, or what job you held, it is how you make them feel when they are with you. Be a person that is honest, empathetic, genuine and enjoyable to be around - learn to smile."
Maureen Donahue, James Butler and Shelly O'Boyle then awarded the graduates with their diplomas, and Donahue signaled the traditional tassel change over. The orchestra concluded the program with a recessional "Centennial Overture" by William Hofeldt.