James Buchanan grads told 'this is your chance to do something different'

June 08, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Hailey Martin wears cowboy boots with her graduation gown Wednesday during James Buchanan High School's commencement in Mercersburg.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — With bottled water at their seats and an industrial fan behind them, 178 graduates from James Buchanan High School's Class of 2011 received their diplomas on an evening when the temperature exceeded 90 degrees.

"Be proud of your accomplishments, and be proud you're a James Buchanan High School graduate," Principal Rodney Benedick said at the start of Wednesday's ceremony.

Graduates' family and friends piled into the bleachers at Rocket Stadium and lined the track fence. They joined the teenagers in singing the school's alma mater.

Valedictorian Lindsay Upperman talked about breaking away — perhaps just briefly — from a community with two traffic lights and the smell of cow manure in the air.

"We have all wanted to get out of this town, if only for a day, to experience a different type of world than we have known our whole lives. ... In the end, this is your chance to do something different," she said.

"We're a class of individuals. Everyone is going on their own path, doing what they desire," Class President Gregory Kunis said.

Graduation is not the end of the road, but rather an intersection, Kunis said.

"This is the point where we all turn our separate ways," he said.

Salutatorian Jerone Stoner said graduates are starting small again now that they enter the workforce, college or military with little life experience. He said it's a position they've been in before.

"When you are an eighth-grader, you are the big fish at the middle school. ... When freshman year comes around, you are bottom of the food chain," he said.

The Class of 2011 presented the school with spirit banners to be affixed to light posts on the main driveway.

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