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Pine Valley Celebrates Class of 2022 During Commencement

SOUTH DAYTON, N.Y. – Pine Valley Central School celebrated the achievements of 46 graduates from the Class of 2022 during its 74th Annual Commencement on Sunday. 

Following the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” processional and the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Jesse Daniels, Superintendent Bryna Moritz welcomed attendees, expressed deep appreciation to families for the role they’ve played in the students’ educational journey, and congratulated graduates on persevering through an unprecedented era in the school’s history. 

“You all grew, you all handled adversity, constant change, different learning structures, and a complete change in an ability to have a human connection throughout your time here,” Moritz said. “These skills you’ve acquired will help you be successful in this next phase of life. Whether you are a terrified graduate, an overconfident graduate, or a perfectly adjusted graduate, please remember that any challenge, any change, any unprecedented time can be overcome; that you will come out better and more ready for the next challenge than you were before.”

Paraphrasing Ralph Waldo Emerson, she concluded, “You have proven at Pine Valley that you can go off path. You have left a trail for future learners. I cannot wait to see what you do in the world.” 

In her address to her classmates – concluded by a performance of the song “Unless You Believe” on her guitar – Salutatorian Jade Giambrone, who will attend SUNY Fredonia next year to study adolescent education in Spanish and a minor in music industry, encouraged graduates to find their passion.

“Life can be stressful and that is why it is important for each of you to find your passion and let it guide you through the hardships that you face,” she said. “Throughout the years, I’ve realized that, although we are different, we all have the common thread of insecurity. We are afraid that we will not measure up to the standards that society has and that no matter how hard we try, that our efforts are not good enough. But I want to remind the Class of 2022 that you are.” 

Valedictorian Margaret King, who will study forensic science and law at Duquesne University next fall, used her address to emphasize the benefits of Pine Valley’s size in overcoming the adversity of attending school throughout the pandemic.

“Pine Valley is a unique school,” she said. “We have an incredibly small class, we’re also very close knit. Our class has dealt with a lot over the last couple years — despite these problems, our class has accomplished a lot. Our class continued to persevere. Not to say that we did it all ourselves. We’ve had a lot of support – teachers, coaches, parents, and friends. These people, whether they have only been with us for a year or our entire school careers, have had an impact on our lives. One constant is that we are not alone in all of this because Pine Valley is such a close-knit community. … We have all grown, changed, and learned together.” 

Rex Butcher, a 1990 Pine Valley graduate who serves as vice president and general manager of Renewable Diesel Business and owner of Cockaigne Resort, delivered the Commencement Address, and left students with important attributes he hopes they will utilize in their future success. Class president Melody Sunick presented Butcher with a gift following his address. 

“Remember, whether you’re working or living with new technology or developing a new form of it – which I hope some of you do – strive to be the best in whatever you choose to do,” said Butcher, whose son Brendon was among the members of the graduating class. 

“Be curious, entrepreneurial, a goal-setter, a mentor,” he added. “Be inspired, be self reflective, be fearless, and be a leader. These attributes helped me in my career and life and I hope they can be a guide and be helpful to you in the future. You have inspired me today and I’ll take that with me.” 

During the ceremony, musical selections were performed by the Senior Chorus, accompanied by district vocal instructor Mary Kay Himes. Commencement Awards were also presented by Moritz, Jr./Sr. High School Principal Kourtney Almeida, and Carrie Davenport, director of special education and curriculum. 

Diplomas were presented by members of the Pine Valley Administrative Team and Jeffrey Chase, president of the board of education.