EL charged to make world better
BY PAT FARNELLI
Elk Lake’s National Champion in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, who doubled Saturday as class valedictorian, seemed quite comfortable in the role of class philosopher.
He said the premise for his speech, was “a life can’t be better spent than making the world happier, seeing how that’s what we all subconsciously try to do.”
“The problem is, happiness is complicated,” Cohen said. “It always conflicts, like how Hitler’s glee over complete European domination sort of made everyone else unhappy. It’s tough to pinpoint, like trying to figure out what makes a person happiest, security or freedom, wealth or love, Pepsi or Coke.”
And, he added, “It’s difficult to achieve, as I’m sure all the logic in the world doesn’t help a grieving family member or an emotionally charged teenager… but that’s the brilliance of it, that making the world better is, for lack of a better place, so damn hard. It gives us something to constantly strive toward.”
Cohen’s words seemed to ring true with his classmates as they seemed to agree that what makes something real is its connection to happiness.
Salutatorian Olivia Smurkowski said, “The only way we can live, is if we grow. The only way we can grow is if we change. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way we can expose ourselves is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”
Class president Suzanne Tewksbury recalled the strength and thoughtfulness of her fellow class members, and remembered losing a close friend and classmate, Olivia Steele, who died tragically in their ninth grade year.
A memorial stood near the stage with Olivia’s photo and a plaque, with her name marked with a cross for “in memory” on the list of graduates.
Commencement speaker and English teacher Jeff Horvath quoted the philosopher Plato, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
He told of his pride in his son, Matt, one of the class of 2013, and of this class which he has personally observed growing up over the years.
Principal Ken Cuomo had fond recollections of many of the students with their accomplishments, including Cohen’s, the first national champion in Elk Lake History in any activity; and Stacy Williams, who walked the processional and joined her classmates on the stage.
She arrived at Elk Lake unable to walk years ago.
Robert Heft came very close to scoring 1,000 career points in basketball. Luke Jones is the highest decorated athlete in Elk Lake history, with eight state medals.
Cuomo pointed out that “this is a class of bables,” as 46 percent of the class are the youngest in their families or only children.
He also noted that 55 percent are going on to college, “including one for “a bounty hunter training program.”
One is going into farming, five into the military, and one to professional hockey.
2013 GRADUATES INCLUDE:
Tori Ackley, Kayla Adams, Lainey Bedell, Carley Bennett, Elizabeth Benscoter, Jared Berg, Austin Bomboy, Michaela Boner, Samantha Boner, Amber Brewer, Darren Brown, Ricky Burger, Meagan Bush, Seth Carney, Hannah Cave, Kali Cennamo, Cassandra Clark, Jacquelyn Clark, Austin Cohen, Katie Cokely, Austin Conrad, Lacey Cook, Aric Curry, Damian Dailey, Jamie DeBonis, Francis Delesky, Kaitlyn Depew, Sean Eckert, Courtney Erat, Sarita Farnelli, Kalyn Filan, Cody Franssen, Clark Fuller, Laura Gacha, Brittany Garay, Tracie Golden, Devon Greenwood, Kellie Grosvenor, Alyssa Harvey, Matthew Harvey, Veronica Head, Robert Heft III, Jordan Hemenway, Kirsten Hollister, Matthew Horvath, Lukas Jones, Cheyann Kelder, Kyle Kupscznk, Faith Kwiatkowski, Sara Kwiatkowski, Gabrielle Malandri, Timothy Marbaker, Mason Maye, Casey McCauley, Cassandra Mebus, Gabrielle Melan, Daniel Mills, Vivian Mills, Catherine Molyneaux, McKenzie Moon, Michael Murphy, Samantha Neville, Abby Newhart, Daniel Noldy, Erin Noldy, Aaron O’Brien, Isaiah Ofalt, Steven Paskaitis, Nicolette Pasquali, Kyleen Pisaneschi, Krystin Reed, Brendon Reimiller, Cassandra Salsman, Lindsey Shingler, Sarah Shuren, Zachary Sigirci, Miranda Silfee, Jordan Smith, Vanessa Smith, Olivia Smurkowski, Destiny Snyder, Samantha Stevens, Susanne Tewksbury, Travis Tiger, Kati VanEtten, Jason Vermeulen, James Walsh, Brett Welsh, Emily Williams, Stacy Williams, Barbara Zapolski and Devin Zeyher