‘One big family’: Bald Eagle Area Class of 2014 ready to tackle life’s puzzles; Class of ’64 honored

bmilazzo@centredaily.comJune 14, 2014 

— At least half of the Bald Eagle Area High School Class of 2014 can say they can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes.

The fad came from Levi Veneziano, who can solve the puzzle in about 30 seconds and urged the men’s soccer team to try, then passed the mechanism on to nearly the rest of the class.

Some of the BEA graduates said that if they can solve a Rubik’s Cube, anything is possible.

NUMBER OF GRADUATES: 153.

WHERE: Alumni Stadium, adjacent to the high school on South Eagle Valley Road.

COLORS: The graduates wore blue caps and gowns. The tassel was half blue and gold, with a gold 2014 medallion.

VALEDICTORIAN: Abbey Crago, 18, of Howard, graduated with a 4.51 GPA. She will attend Grove City College for biology.

SALUTATORIAN: Sam Van Cise, 18, graduated with a 4.47 GPA. He will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

MUSIC: The graduates walked down the track to their seats to Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March No.1.” That was followed by a prayer and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which played through several speakers around the football field.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: The Bald Eagle Area Class of 1964 was recognized.

Several of the former classmates said that even though it has been years since they’ve seen each other, it was like things never changed.

“We go right back to the way things were before,” said Paula Leathers McDanel, who now lives near Pittsburgh.

“We picked right back up where we left off,” said class speaker Ken Hall, of Moshannon.

The Class of ’64 walked the stage 50 years ago with 204 graduates — one of the largest classes BEA ever had, said Danny Yearick, who lives in Allentown.

He added that it was the first class to go all the way through school together from seventh to 12th grade after area community schools were merged to form the BEA district.

“There used to be some kind of rivalries with those who lived up in Snow Shoe and those out by Howard,” he said. “Our class changed that. We were all together for it and the first to do so.”

Class of ’64 member Andy Swarm’s great-grandson, Tyler Horner, graduated with the Class of 2014.

“It’s special,” Swarm, of Bellefonte, said. “Now we look around and everything’s new. A new school, new faces.”

McDanel said she hopes the Class of 2014 keeps in touch as hers has, meeting about every five years since graduation.

POP CULTURE REFERENCE: Class President Zachary Moody took two “selfies” before he addressed his fellow graduates. He first got his head into the photo with one part of the class in the background, then went to the other side of the stage and took his second “selfie” to include the other students.

WORD OF ADVICE: Crago addressed her class with a message to “be true to who you are.”

But that message wasn’t just for her graduates. She said she hopes all other students can take that piece of advice.

Nate Cleaver, 18, said he’s heading into the logging industry, and while he’s appreciates what BEA gave to him, he wishes he had put more effort into his school work.

“It’s an awesome feeling. I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” Cleaver said about graduation. “Looking back on it, I think I would have worked a little harder. I’d tell (underclassmen) to work hard all the way through high school.”

A MEMORY: Dennis Shaw Jr. and Bailey Bloom said that while neither of them could quickly solve a Rubik’s Cube, most of their peers could.

“It was something everyone knew for some reason,” Bloom, 18, of Julian, said. “It was pretty cool.”

“I wish I knew how to get it done,” Shaw added.

Shaw, 18, of Howard, said his graduation memories will include hanging out with friends and participating in spirit week.

“I’ll miss the spirit weeks and other fun activities we did in school,” he said. “It’s cool to graduate, though, but I’m a little anxious. There are some mixed emotions, but I’ll remember all the fun stuff.”

He’s entering the workforce in heavy-equipment operations.

WHAT THEY’LL MISS: Spending time with friends and playing sports are just a few of the things graduates said they’ll miss the most, but they are eager to start something new.

“Bald Eagle is like one big family,” said Cheyenne Smolko, 17. “You woke up every day leaving one family and getting to be with another. It was a great place.”

Smolko will attend Duquesne University for health science and pre-health.

Bryan Greene, 18, played baseball, basketball and football at BEA, but said that although he plans to continue football at Lycoming or Juniata colleges, basketball is the sport he’ll miss the most.

“I know it’s something I won’t play again,” he said. “I think I’ll miss the whole experience. It’ll be weird not waking up at 7 (a.m.) to go to school and seeing everyone. A whole new routine will be weird, but I’m looking forward to it.”

HOW THEY FELT: There were a mix of emotions about graduating. Some seniors said they were ready to leave, while others said they were nervous for the future.

And some were just honored.

“We did it,” Jeffrey Bennett, 18, of Runville, said. “It’s a huge milestone in our lives and the biggest one so far.”

“It’s a different kind of experience,” Dakota Rossman, 18, of Milesburg, said. “It came so quick.”

Rossman will enter the workforce, he said.

“It’s exciting, but scary,” Michelle Kachik, 17, of Clarence, said. “The last few weeks flew by. It’s all been kind of a blur and here we are. This school really helped us get ready for what’s next. The small school helped us all be close with each other and the teachers.”

Kachik will attend Penn College of Technology to be a physician assistant.

HOW PARENTS FELT: Elizabeth Quick, of Clarence, watched her daughter, Carrie Wilson, receive her diploma, and couldn’t help but get teary-eyed.

“See, I’m crying already,” Quick said. “I’m so proud because looking out, I see how bright her future is. … I tell her to go for her goals because I never went for mine.”

Wilson hopes to go to school to be a veterinarian, Quick said.

Quick was accompanied by “proud aunt” Rose Blesh and a number of other family members.

“These kids are the future and they’re so bright, and I look at my kids and think of the best for them,” Quick said.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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