By Kaylee Lindenmuth
FOUNTAIN SPRINGS - 126 students endured a brief downpour to receive their diplomas in the 52nd commencement ceremony at North Schuylkill High School, held Tuesday evening at Spartan Stadium in Fountain Springs.
During the ceremony, valedictorian Brook Antalosky and salutatorian David Sokolski delivered speeches, with Sokolski's entitled "Ohana."
Sokolski began by defining adversity.
"As we go through life, we often face various challenges, such as the death of a loved one, an illness, or even something as simple as an upcoming test," said Sokolski. "Each challenge is designed to show us that the good things in life do not come free."
"These challenges that we face truly make us into the people we are today, because they show us who we strive to become," Sokolski continued. "In some cases, we have to face these misfortunes by ourselves, but ideally, we have our family right by our sides."
Family, or, as his cap design and the 2002 animated film Lilo and Stitch describe it, ohana, is how Sokolski describes the class of 2018.
"Ohana means family, family means no one gets left behind or forgotten," Sokolski said, quoting the film. "Family does not have to only pertain to those that share the same bloodline, but it can also refer to those that are by your side through everything."
"Family loves you for who you are. They are the ones who are your shoulder to cry on, and they are the ones you share the happiest of memories with. They are they for you, no matter what," Sokolski continued. "The class of 2018 has become a family."
"Over the years, we have fought, but we have remained strong through it all... We've witnessed a two-miler close when the first snowflakes began falling, just like our math grades began falling when they added these things called logarithms into the problems," said Sokolski. "With every tear came a smile, and every smile led to another memory, the kind that lasts forever."
"We have always been a family, and we will be a family forever, because family sticks together. Always." Sokolski concluded.
Antalosky noted that, no matter where the graduates go, they all originated from the same place.
"We all started together, and now we're concluding this chapter of our lives and starting new ones, together." Antalosky said. "Our lives as young adults begin now. As Meryl Streep once said, 'This is your time, and it feels normal to you, but there really is no normal. There's only change, and resistance to it, and more change.'"
"The Academy Award and Golden Globe winner is right. After today, most of us won't recognize it, but everything will be different," said Antalosky. "All the certainty of today will diminish into the unsureness of countless tomorrows."
"As the tides of life crash, we will not be toppled. We will fight back and tread water, we will tread until our legs give out and we can't fight anymore," Antalosky added. "Yet, when it's all over, we won't give up. We will keep treading, because our lives have just begun."
National Honor Society President Matthew McCormick also had the opportunity to speak.
"When I started writing this speech, I had no idea what I wanted to talk about. I continuously stalled and waited until I could think of something that was worth speaking about," said McCormick. "Then I thought about the very thing that I was doing: nothing. I was not working to do what I otherwise should've done, which was have a great speech already written. This is how I found the message that I wanted to say."
"Master Yoda once said, 'do or do not, there is no try.'" McCormick said. "This is great advice for someone starting the next phase in their life. If you work hard and make goals for yourself, there's nothing holding you back. Life is only what you make of it, and by doing what your heart desires, then you have already one."
McCormick then began to recount experiences with the class of 2018 that proved as examples that, in his words, "when we put our minds together to accomplish something, then anything is possible."
"I remember the day when our senior class climbed to the top of the rock and painted our year, eighteen," said McCormick. "It was a great day, because it kicked off our senior year at North Schuylkill. It also showed me something bigger. It allowed me to see that everyone could put their differences aside and come together as a class to complete a goal that we set out to do."
Student Council President Averi Jordan also had the opportunity to speak, choosing to speak on the subject of involvement. Jordan recalled a story in which hikers began a journey which a voice stated would leave them disappointed and satisfied at the same time. The hikers were to collect rocks along the way, which became diamonds at the end.
"As the hikers finally reached the top of the mountain, after their long and exhausting journey, the voice comes back to them. The voice says 'Look at the rocks that you picked up at the start of your journey,'" said Jordan. "To the surprise of the hikers, all of the rocks they picked up have become diamonds. The hikers are beyond satisfied, just like the voice said, but they begin to wonder what the disappointment was. The voice comes back one last time and says 'Don't you wish you would've picked up more rocks?'"
"This story teaches us the importance of being involved in our communities, our schools, and our jobs, because there are positive benefits from being involved. To the class of 2018, if you did not get involved in high school, you have the opportunity to get involved after graduation because you are given a new start, whether you're going to college, the military, trade school, or the workforce," said Jordan. "As you enter your new beginning, pick up as many rocks as you can, because one day, they will become diamonds."
After Jordan spoke, the first inductees into the North Schuylkill Wall of Fame were announced. Inducted were 1991 graduates Stacey Rentschler and William Wydra, 1997 graduates Johnathan Noyalas and Allison Reh, and 2002 graduate Nicole Johnson.
After the graduates received their diplomas, the passing of the mantle occurred between Class of 2018 president Michael Russell and Class of 2019 president William Weiss, followed by the turning of the tassels.
The commencement ceremony concluded with a fireworks display.