GROTON — Leah Bernhardt, 17, said she’ll miss high school, but she’s also looking forward to studying digital media and graphic design at SUNY Cortland this fall.
Bernhardt, an honor student who graduated Saturday morning from Groton High School, said it was at Groton that she discovered her aptitude for digital media, in a new STEAM class run by Mick Levick, where she made short films using professional equipment.
Bernhardt was one of 53 seniors who received their diplomas Saturday in the commencement exercise held in the high school gymnasium.
Class President Margaret Ossit spoke of how tight-knit a class of this size is in a school this small — a few more than 50 graduates.
“We ended up becoming a family, whether we liked it or not,” she said. She compared their experiences together to a story: the setting their school, and each of them the characters. Like characters in a good story, they developed and changed over time, she said. And like any story, this, too, would all come to an end.
She encouraged everyone to “freeze this moment in our minds … because we will never find another moment just like this.”
Valedictorian Diaz Nino spoke of cultivating one’s strengths. His first-place status in his class did not qualify him to give a motivational speech, he said, because he got where he was because he “genuinely enjoyed the subjects that many struggle most in.”
Instead, he encouraged students to follow their own passions. Judging people according to one uniform rule is a mistake, he said. He said that would be like judging his academic ability from his athletic aptitude.
“Don’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,” Nino said.
Salutatorian Zoe Barclay sought an appropriate metaphor for the experience of high school, first choosing that of a race, then that of a book, but finding neither satisfactory. The race metaphor doesn’t work, she said, because high school is about more than just winning and losing, and the book metaphor fails because “we’re also just making this up as we go along.”
High school, like the rest of life, is “perpetual change,” she said.
Before sending their wards off into the world, Superintendent Margot Martin told the graduates to “never forget where you came from,” and Principal Billie Downs encouraged them, throughout their lives, to “choose to be kind.”