HOWARD CITY – On Thursday evening, 160 Tri County High School graduating seniors crossed the stage, marking their first steps into a larger world. Whether off to college, trade school, careers or family, all in attendance seemed to recognize the ceremony as a turning point in their lives.
Tri County High School Principal Timothy Goheen welcomed the capacity crowd of students, parents, friends and relatives, saying he has “truly enjoyed” the time spent with the Class of 2017. Goheen also complimented the school’s teachers and support staff and made note of the class’ many accomplishments during the past academic year.
Bridgette Pollaski, one of the graduating class’ seven valedictorians, offered a formal welcome to the gathering. She spoke of the way in which each student’s imperfections eventually make him or her a better person.
“No one is perfect,” Pollaski said. “Imperfections take many forms and they are quintessential to our experience. Mistakes happen in our lives and we sometimes choose to let them define us, but that’s a mistake. I have the power to learn from my mistakes. Basically, mistakes can guide our success.”
Tri County Area Schools Superintendent Allen Cumings praised the graduates for their accomplishments throughout the year, saying, “This has been a special year for you and you should be proud.”
Cumings also suggested that the road to true success is not necessarily paved with money and fame. Life presents more important, if sometimes less tangible goals. Nurturing “quality” relationships, he said, is what makes one happy in the long run.
“Today is not about what you’re going to do after graduation,” Cumings said. “It’s about who you’re going to be.”
Following Cumings’ remarks, the school band performed a rendition of “Pirates of the Caribbean Symphonic Suite.”
Another valedictorian, Timothy Totengco, elicited laughter by noting that picturing the audience in their underwear was not working for him with regard to easing his foray into public speaking.
Totengco asked the graduates to think about all the changes they have been through in the past four years, moving from freshmen who easily got lost in the hallways during their first days to seniors utterly familiar with the workings of the high school.
“I remember walking into the wrong class that first day,” Totengco said. “Typical freshman.”
Graduation, he added, is a “bittersweet experience. It’s scary, but high school itself is scary. We’ve put in 12 years of hard work to make it to this day, but we didn’t make it here alone.”
Totengco credited the teachers, parents and fellow students with making the day possible and admonished the grads to “strive to be great.”
Tri County math teacher Robert Morrison delivered the commencement address, noting he felt honored the class had chosen him for the task. As a teacher, he couldn’t resist one last jibe at students who sometimes turned in work late, however.
“I managed to get this speech written on time,” he said. “I didn’t have to ask for an extension.”
Morrison also expressed some dismay at having to speak before such a large crowd.
“I was always the person who never raised his hand and tried to avoid getting called on by my teachers,” he said. He added the lessons that truly stick with a person are those made through example, rather than words.
“The way you live your life can say more about you than all the words you speak,” Morrison said. “Be the kind of person someone wants to meet when they see the way you live your life.”
Yet another valedictorian, Weston Rackley, delivered the farewell address. Rackley reminisced about all the good times the students had shared during their time at Tri County. He spoke of football games and friendships and the enduring nature of the class’ many accomplishments.
“The marks you’ve made here will remain forever,” Rackley said, adding the students owed a debt of gratitude to their parents, fellow students and school staff. “Without them we would never have made it to this point.”
The Tri County Board of Education presented the diplomas to the graduates, after which Goheen officially presented the class to the gathering.
The band played “Tribute and Triumph” by David Schaffer as the recessional.