Saturday morning was a bit surreal for the State College Area High School Class of 2014.
Family, friends and graduate supporters nearly filled the stands as they watched the first class to graduate at Pegula Ice Arena.
Graduates said they were excited to walk the stage, but nervous about the future. However, most said the school and its staff helped them prepare for the next chapter in their lives.
Parents may find it difficult to let go of their sons and daughters but are proud of their accomplishments.
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NUMBER OF GRADUATES: 599.
WHERE: Pegula Ice Arena.
COLORS: Girls wore white caps and gowns, and the boys wore maroon.
VALEDICTORIAN: Sajal Datta, 18. He had a 4.8693 GPA and will be studying biophysics and applied mathematics at Brown University.
SALUTATORIAN: Joseph Lin. He will attend MIT in the fall.
MUSIC: The State High band serenaded the crowd with an instrumental piece before the graduates entered. The group then played Giuseppe Verdi’s “Grand March” as the Class of 2014 took their seats, followed by “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
POP CULTURE REFERENCES: Superintendent Bob O’Donnell thanked social media for making him better engaged with students and the district. He even referred to hashtags, which left the graduates laughing.
Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” was played while a senior video was shown on the jumbotron.
WORDS OF ADVICE: Many graduates urged the underclassmen to enjoy their time at school, have fun, study hard and not be afraid to be themselves.
“It’s shocking that time went by so fast,” said Chandley Book, 18. “I’d say to take the time to make opportunities for yourself and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way, and make the best of it because time really does fly by.”
She’ll attend the Penn State College of Nursing in the fall.
Classmate Victoria Scutti, 17, said people shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves.
“In no time, you’ll be a senior and may have wished for things differently, but don’t wait for your last year to be who you are and who you want to be,” Scutti said.
Scutti will attend Penn State in the fall for chemical engineering.
A MEMORY: Class President Fredrick Zheng, 17, told his classmates to seize the moment and value the time they have. He reminded them that even though time is limited, one can always make it a lasting moment.
His speech was one that “came from the heart,” he said.
“Time is finite, but what you do with your 24 hours doesn’t have to be,” he said at the end of his speech.
Zheng was class president for four years and said he’ll always remember the support he got from his peers during his tenure — a class he called a second family.
Zheng will attend Penn State for business studies.
WHAT THEY’LL MISS: Jordan Weaver, 18, said he’d most miss senior year. He’ll will be attending Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh this fall.
“It was a great year in general,” he said. “We had a great prom, a great class trip (to Baltimore), and it was an amazing year for everything we did.”
Classmate Kelly Leddy, 17, said that while most of her time was memorable, she’ll most miss her friends and the 24-hour volleyball tournament through the Key Club that helped raise money for numerous local organizations.
“It was always the most fun and a great way we were able to give back in the meantime,” she said. “Now I hope everyone after us remembers to enjoy their time like those moments and remember(s) not to complain, because when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Leddy will study biobehavioral health at Penn State.
Scutti added that while she’ll miss “friends and the good times,” the teachers who have influenced her would also be missed.
“It’s not just the students I’ll miss,” she said. “The teachers here always encouraged a really great relationship that helped for your future, and they were always there with good guidance. It’s scary right now, but they helped get us ready for this.”
HOW THEY FELT: Weaver said that while he’s ready for the next step in his life, graduation day was a little crazy.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “It’s a really exciting time and I know I’ll miss my friends, but I’m ready to graduate and I’m ready for what’s next. I really think the school prepared us for the next chapter.”
Leddy said graduation is a “bittersweet” moment, but one she’s ready for, as well.
“It’s going to be weird not seeing your friends every day,” she said. “You get used to that usual routine and to get out of that is a little scary, but exciting.”
HOW PARENTS FELT: Judi Hite said she had “mixed emotions” watching her son, Eric, walk the stage.
“It’s emotional because it’s his last year and my last child graduating from State High,” she said.
On the other hand, Hite said she was excited for her son’s future.
He’ll be attending Penn State, but already has a summer internship at the State College Area School District working in the computer labs.
Hite’s daughter, Rachel, graduated from State High last year.