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State College High Celebrates Graduation at the BJC

by on June 09, 2013 7:40 AM

Everywhere you looked, there was a sea of proud parents and beaming freshly-minted high school graduates. State College Area High School welcomed nearly 600 high school seniors as new alumni inside the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday morning.

The two-hour long graduation ceremony began with music from the state high marching band and was followed by speeches and a video before graduates walked across the stage and turned their tassels from right to left.

District superintendent Robert O’Donnell got things underway thanking spectators for their attendance and students for all their work throughout their academic careers.

“Your work has helped to strengthen our school and community,” O’Donnell said.

“There is not a person in this room who will escape disappointment and doubt. You must approach this with grit and a positive mindset.”

The Class of 2013 includes 10 National Merit semifinalists. Twenty-one of the graduates will be entering into ROTC programs. Three students received appointments to military academies.

Valedictorian Akhil Upneja will attend Yale University in the fall where he intends to study molecular biophysics. Salutatorian Amanda Reese will stay close to home at Penn State where she will be enrolled in the Schreyer Honors College majoring in biochemistry.

Class president Alexander Goncalves served as the main student speaker.

Gonclaves encouraged his classmates to be bold and pursue their own interest rather than simply trying to make parents or other people happy.

“My advice to you is to seize every opportunity, to live life on the edge, because only then will you truly be satisfied,” said Goncalves.

“Whatever floats your boat. So many people take hapless desk jobs. I’m sure this lifestyle works for some people, but I could see myself feeling lifeless in such an environment. I like to think of the outdoors, of nature, of having a connection with everyone and everything around me.

“Life is too short to spend it doing something you hate. Everyone has a passion about something. Look for something that you can spend your time doing that you will enjoy.

“Find a passion in the world around you. Whether you’re pursuing clown school or scuba diving, be the best clown or scuba diver you can be.”

Before exiting the stage, Goncalves thanked his vice president Samantha Malizia, secretary Karley Ellis, and treasurer Christina Ghinos.

A video played on the Jordan Center scoreboard with students sharing thoughts about future plans, favorite teachers, how they changed and special high school memories.

Many of those memories included Little Lions football games at Memorial Field, playing high school sports, and extracurricular activities including band, debate team, and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).

The video gave way to principal Scott DeShong who congratulated students on balancing their school work with after school clubs and jobs.

“Do not let today be the pinnacle of your success,” DeShong said. “Be humble in your victories and resilient in your setbacks.”

DeShong finished his remarks by quoting former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno ‘You’re never as good as you think you are when you win, and you’re never as bad as you think you are when you lose.’

“Stay classy State High,” he said before giving the floor to school board president Penni Fishbaine.

Fishbaine encouraged graduates to never lose sight of their integrity and morals even when facing difficult life decisions.

“It is normal to be nervous about new life beginnings,” Fishbaine said. “View change as an opportunity.

“I believe every opportunity is a learning experience. If you choose to seek out opportunities, you will learn about yourself, your talents, and your interests. Every time you work with other people, it’s a chance to collaborate. I wish you a life of success and an abundance of opportunities.”

Judy and David McCobin, parents of graduate Matthew McCobin, enjoyed the ceremony saying it was well organized and ran smoothly.

Glorie Josephs attended with a large contingent of her family. Her son Cooper will attend Bucknell University where he will major in biochemistry.

“I thought it was an excellent ceremony,” said Josephs. “I really liked how they incorporated the video and music into it. It made for a nice touch.”

State high juniors Jeff Pedolski and Harry Yeatman won't graduate until next year but played an important part in today’s festivities.

Pedolski plays the saxophone in the school band while Yeatman is a trumpet player.

Both said they were happy to be a part of the big day for the seniors.

“We had two additional rehearsals to prepare each piece we played, but it was definitely worth the time,” Pedolski said.

“We were all really happy with how we played and to have the opportunity to witness the ceremony.”

Drew Balis is a Penn State graduate, freelance reporter and frequent contributor to
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