Chambersburg grads urged to aim high

June 08, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - High school graduations are the kind of events for which camcorder makers and florists are grateful and for which the timeless wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi and Kermit the Frog is always appropriate.

And so it was Tuesday night as 528 members of the Chambersburg Area Senior High School Class of 2005 - from Joseph Mark Abbott to Judy Shao Yan Zhang - crossed the stage at one end zone of Trojan Stadium to accept their diplomas before 2,800 or so family, friends and faculty seated on folding chairs in the gridiron grass.

"I'm so very proud of this group of young people and all they've accomplished," said Patricia Jacobs, the assistant principal for the seniors told the class. She noted the obstacles they had overcome in four years from "building construction, PSSAs and, yes, where this ceremony was going to be held."


Declared unsafe and closed in March, the stadium bleachers were empty, but the seniors voted a few weeks ago to hold the ceremony on the field rather than at Heiges Field House at Shippensburg (Pa.) University.

"Set your goals high and you will always move forward," Senior Class President Mark Epstein told his classmates, quoting from a Chinese fortune cookie he opened a week ago.

"Become the change you wish to see in the world," he said, quoting Gandhi.

"The time has come to drop your tails and leave this pond," said Salutatorian Erica Coffman, quoting Kermit.

"Measure success by your own standards," Valedictorian Andrea Martin said. Those heading for the military, she said will be earning the respect of many. Those going directly into the work force, she said, will be earning money, while those going to college will be accumulating debt for the next few years.

"Live with a purpose and be passionate about that purpose," Martin said.

As the diplomas were being handed out, students volleyed beach balls back and forth. Family members advanced, armed with camcorders, cameras and cellular phones with digital cameras to record this rite of passage.

At the end of the ceremony, almost everyone gathered before the stage to form a mosh pit of graduates and relatives.

"You're glad you're done with high school, but you're sad you're leaving your friends," said Kelly McNamee, who plans to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the fall. As far as fond memories, "It's hard to narrow it down to one thing," she said.

"Yes and no," Stephanie Pecovsky and Kayla Messinger said between puffs on cigars when asked if they were glad their high school years were over.

"Yes because of the freedom ... until August," said Pecovsky, who is enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.

Epstein, who will attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, said about 30 class members are entering the military.

Pecovsky and Messinger were asked if these were their first cigars.

"Sure," said Pecovsky.

"Of course they are," said Messinger.

Some graduates still have a hurdle to cross. Dozens were recently charged with disorderly conduct for some Color Day hijinks in April in Buchanan State Forest. Magisterial District Judge Richard Alloway said Tuesday about 40 of them will appear before him Thursday and he plans to dole out community service sentences for those that plead guilty.

Vicky Taylor said she is a veteran of many high school graduations with "22 or 23" grandchildren.

"I'd have to count," she said. "I've had one every year for the past five or six years."

Tuesday night she was there to see grandchildren Ryan Seiders, Timothy Parker and Christina Taylor get their diplomas.

"It's special every single time," she said. "It doesn't matter how many times you go to a graduation, whether it's your kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews."

"You look at these kids and realize this is our future," Taylor said.

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