Bellefonte grads urged to make a difference in lives around them

Bellefonte High School graduates toss their caps at graduation on Monday, June 8, 2015.
Bellefonte High School graduates toss their caps at graduation on Monday, June 8, 2015. CDT photo

It was standing room only for the parents and families of Bellefonte Area High School’s Class of 2015.

Rain and the threat of tornadoes moved the ceremony indoors Monday, as family members scrambled to find limited seating in the gym. But the ceremony went off without a hitch, and almost 200 graduates were able to move their tassels to the right side of their caps.


WHERE: Bellefonte Area High School gym

VALEDICTORIAN: Matthew Dabiero, who wished success on each of his fellow classmates.

But Dabiero asked the graduates to examine success and what it really means. While some measure success by material possessions, he said, what does it all mean in the end? He offered a different challenge to his classmates — to measure success by the positive influence they have on the people around them.

“After all,” he said, “what could possibly have more value than making a difference to other people?”

SALUTATORIAN: Ashley Morris, who walked her classmates through the evolution of technology as they grew, being a generation that has always known social media.

Morris dared her classmates to be different, and to take control of their own lives. She was confident each of them was prepared to face what life threw at them.

“Life is not a spectator sport,” she said, quoting the Disney film “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” “If watching is all you’re going to do, then you’re going to watch your life go on without you.”

MUSIC: Graduates marched onto the gym floor to the familiar sounds of Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance, March No. 1.” This was followed by a rendition of “The Star- Spangled Banner.”

THE “HOW DARE THEY?” MOMENT: Several times, students began bouncing beach balls around the crowd, knocking the inflated balls back and forth between each other. But, the balls were quickly confiscated by nearby teachers, despite the “boos” and cries of dissent among the students and the crowd.

POP CULTURE REFERENCE: Class President Andrew Kaschalk invoked the classic comedy villain Dr. Evil, from the “Austin Powers” franchise, when motivating his fellow classmates.

With determination, any one of his classmates could be successful, he said. For all any of them knew, the first trillionaire could be sitting among them. But, as Dr. Evil would say, “Why make trillions when you could make ... *pinky to mouth* billions?”

WORD OF ADVICE: It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re the best at what you do.

These words came from graduation speaker Rob Koll’s 10th-grade English teacher, he said. At the time, he didn’t think much of it, but as time passed, he realized that when you apply passion to your work, you can do great things.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re clergy or a mechanic or a soldier or a teacher or a doctor,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re passionate about it.”

What you end up doing, he said, is what you’ll be passionate about, and he encouraged graduates to pursue what they love doing.

Koll has served as the mentor of the Cornell University wrestling program for 22 years and is a State College Area High School graduate.

WHAT THEY’LL MISS: Students were excited to get their new lives started, even without the safety net of high school around them.

“There’s a safety of high school that you feel that’s not going to be there when you go off to college,” Molly Nelson, 18, said. “But I’m very excited.”

Nelson said she would be pursuing an education as a licensed practical nurse, possibly moving up to a registered nurse in the future.

But friends would be missed as well.

“I’ll miss being around friends, and probably some teachers,” Dillon Ault, 18, said. But he said he had a “pretty good high school career.”

Ault said he would be studying diesel mechanics in agricultural equipment at the University of Northwestern Ohio.

HOW THEY FELT: A feeling of accomplishment, if not sheer relief the ordeal was over, was evident.

“I’m feeling glad to be done and over with,” Randy Bartley, 18, said. “But I am probably going to miss my friends.”

Bartley said he plans on entering the workforce.

“I’m feeling pretty excited,” Kristin Cavanaugh, 18, said. “I’m ready to get my life started.”

Cavanaugh said she would be attending Penn State’s main campus, commuting to save some money.