LAKE PLACID - It was a close class that crossed the stage on the Olympic Oval Friday evening to receive their diplomas and complete their high school careers.
Sixty-one students graduated from Lake Placid Middle/High School Friday under a sunny sky. High School Principal Rick Retrosi recognized about a dozen who were the fourth generation of students to graduate from the school, plus one who was a fifth-generation grad.
The ceremony was not a single great transformation for the students, said valedictorian Margaret Rose-McCandlish said in her address. Rather, they have grown together into young adults through a series of small moments throughout their lives, she said.
The Class of 2013
She told the story of her grandmother, who gave her own valedictory speech in Arkansas in 1953. She said her grandmother didn't know what life would hold for her then, and what was life for her grandmother was what she and her friends learned in history class.
She said that while she's "just a kid" and doesn't know much about being a world citizen, she said that if she and her classmates live by the lessons they learned throughout their schooling in Lake Placid, she knows they will have an impact on the world.
Salutatorian Haley Brandes encouraged her classmates to follow their dreams and be happy, noting that John Lennon was told not to bother with guitar when he was young and became one of the most successful musicians of all time.
"He didn't let others get in the way of his dreams and his passion," Brandes said.
She talked about the various aspects of happiness, including being happy with what a person has rather than stretching constantly for perfection and having a strong support system.
She noted that besides their families, the classmates her class have a strong support system between themselves. She said that's part of what will make it hard to say goodbye when they move on to college, work and the military, but she hopes people keep up those bonds.
"You can turn off the sun, but you can bet the class of 2013 is still gonna shine," Brandes said, adapting a line from a Jason Mraz song. The original line is the Class of 2013's class motto.
Class President Lorraine Draper took a flame from a central candle and lit her own, then spread the flame to each row of her classmates. She said it symbolizes how the classmates have grown together but each now plans to go their separate ways, each carrying that light in them.
"Let it shine to lead us down our paths," Draper said.
Douglas Skopp, a SUNY Plattsburgh professor, was the guest speaker for the ceremony. He wrote a novel called "Shadows Walking" about atrocities committed during the Holocaust, which students read in their classes. Hunter Wilson, the student who introduced Skopp, said the novel had a big emotional impact on him.
Skopp said he had the members of the class turn in cards asking what they wanted to hear in their graduation speech. Many of the students told him how close the class is, and in his speech he encouraged the students to maintain the friendships they developed throughout their schooling. He called the Class of 2013 a beautiful and special class.
"This is such a special school," Skopp said.
He asked to them to have compassion, which is the only way humanity can prevent something like the Holocaust from repeating itself.
He shared a number of other life lessons with them, including one basic truth: Nothing lasts.
"Don't despair," Skopp said. "I find hope in this. Yes, the good doesn't last, but the bad doesn't, either."
He gave the students two assignments: Write thank you cards to their parents and the teachers and other people who helped them get to this point in their life, and to take time in several years to remember the future the students promised themselves today. If they don't know what they want now, he told them to be open to the possibilities, and once they find what they want to do, they should embrace it with their entire heart and soul.
He told them to be grateful, forgiving and willing to show love. He encouraged them to not use materialism as the measuring stick to their success. He said that won't lead to true happiness. Rather, he encouraged them to use a more spiritual yardstick that measures how creative, helpful and loving they are.
"Celebrate each day as the gift that it is," Skopp said.
The senior members of chorus performed two songs, "I was here" and Bob Dylan's "Forever young."
As the Class of 2013 threw their graduation caps in the air at the end of the ceremony, they also set off confetti bombs and each put on glittery glasses in the shape of "2013," which many continued to wear as they headed down the aisle and on to an informal reception provided by the Class of 2015.
Gift to theater
At the start of the ceremony, Draper announced the class will donate $1,000 to the Palace Theatre to help it buy a digital projector, a financial challenge facing many small movie theaters across the country today. Draper thanked theater owner Reg Clark, who stood and was recognized.
"As a class we have spent many hours on our own and as a group at the movies," Draper said. "In middle school, we celebrated the holidays each year with a trip to the Palace Theatre. We have been there for special showings of films for our classes, and some of us have been there on our first official date. We hope that the Palace Theatre will be able to serve our community for many years to come."
The class also donated to the school district for improvements to the athletic fields.
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or