Rain and thunder weren’t enough to dampen the spirits of more than 100 graduates of the Philipsburg-Osceola Area High School class of 2015.
As cannon-like thunder rumbled outside, the lights in the high school auditorium flickered only once, as students, faculty and alumni spoke, doling out advice for the young adults clad in caps and gowns.
NUMBER OF GRADUATES: 119.
WHERE: The auditorium of Philipsburg-Osceola Area High School. Plans to hold graduation ceremonies on the football field were scrapped because of rain.
COLORS: Navy blue, white and silver.
VALEDICTORIAN: Wyatt Inlow, 18, who told his fellow graduates that while it’s fun remembering the good times, to also look toward the future.
SALUTATORIAN: Olivia McCafferty, 18, who remarked on how quickly their high school careers had flown by, even though “every morning felt earlier than the last, every winter was longer and colder than before, and every eight-hour day ticked by slower.”
MUSIC: The graduates walked down the side aisles to their seats to the familiar sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Mandy Schmidt treated the crowd to a rendition of “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, and Jessica Way performed “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack.
BLAST FROM THE PAST: Dr. Laurie Nelson, Class of 1985, was recognized.
As a Philipsburg-Osceola graduate, Penn State graduate, Navy veteran and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center physician, Nelson imparted valuable, if blunt, advice to the Class of 2015.
Surround yourselves with people of quality, never let anyone tell you you can’t do something and bad things are going to happen, she said. But, what you do with these bad things will determine who you are.
“You are the responsible citizens of tomorrow,” she said. “Today is that day. Parents and families, you should be exceptionally proud.”
Nelson told her story, of suffering a softball injury shortly before graduation, which derailed her plans to go to the Naval Academy. At her lowest point, she recuperated, got into the academy “by the skin of my teeth,” and graduated a year later than originally planned.
Looking back, she said, it was the best thing that could have happened to her. “Something bad had happened, but I made the most of it.”
POP CULTURE REFERENCE: Class salutatorian McCafferty took a “selfie” as she wrapped up her address to the audience. Saying that since this would be the last time the Class of 2015 would be together, they should do something that’s never been done in the history of POHS.
WORD OF ADVICE: Superintendent Gregg Paladina told the class that it’s what in the heart that matters.
Paladina told the story of his education, from guidance counselors in school saying he would have trouble learning, to professors telling him he would fail at his studies, to employers explaining that he was not the right man for the job.
But he persevered.
“You can challenge a lot of things about me, but never question my heart,” he said. “Follow your heart, and you will do well.”
WHAT THEY’LL MISS: Friends will be missed.
“I’m going to miss seeing my friends every day,” Mia Guy, 18, said, saying she wants to spend as much time with her core group of friends before she starts school.
“(My friends and I) are probably going to spend a lot of time together this summer,” Kara Soltys, 18, said. “Just to make memories with them all.”
Soltys said she’ll be attending the Clearfield campus of Lock Haven University with one of her friends in the fall.
HOW THEY FELT: The feeling of pride was palpable.
Trent Reams, 18, said he was proud of his accomplishment, but was surprised at how quickly the time had passed.
“A word of advice to all the graduating classes: live it up,” he said.
Shane Fleck, 18, said he felt exhilarated and happy to have finished his schooling. While he was ready to move on, he wanted to enjoy as much time with his friends as he could.
Fleck will be searching for a job this summer.
HOW PARENTS FELT: Pride mixed with other emotions when it came to parents as well.
“Did I teach her enough?” Deana Bechdel, mother of Erica Confer asked herself. “Did the school teach her?”
Bechdel said she was proud but scared, saying it’s a scary world out there for a recent graduate.
Confer hopes to pursue an ultrasound technician position in the future, she said.
Crystal Conklin said she was proud but sad for her daughter, Vanessa. She said she would likely cry during the ceremony, and was already holding back tears.