- Pine Valley Central School
75th Annual Commencement - Class of 2023
Pine Valley Central School District celebrated the achievements of 36 graduates from the Class of 2023 during its 75th Annual Commencement on Sunday.
Following the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” processional and the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Zachary Waterman, Superintendent Bryna Moritz welcomed attendees, expressed deep appreciation to families for the role they’ve played in the students’ educational journey, and congratulated graduates who have earned the tools and skills necessary to start your own path.
“Let this be the start of a lifelong journey that leads you to success,” Moritz said. “Every year, I speak of the same idea at graduation. Don’t let that success be defined by what others deem as success. Let that success be what makes you happy. Meet every obstacle with confidence in yourself that you can overcome and achieve whatever you want in life. Everyone is here today to celebrate each of you and to let you know that we believe you are ready to create your own next steps.”
In her address, Class President Molly Sunik reminisced on the years since age 3 at Jelly Roll Junction up until Class Night earlier this month.
“We had a lot of fun together throughout our long 14 years of school. Even though I wasn’t best friends with every kid in my class, I felt like at one point or time I needed each of them. Whether it was because I needed help on an assignment, needed to borrow a book, a Dell charger, or maybe I was bored in a study hall and needed someone to talk to, maybe I needed a partner in gym, or someone to beat Katlin (Hayes) and me in badminton. When we graduate today, I want everyone to think about our past 14 years together. I think you’ll all come to the same conclusion I did. I could not imagine a better group of kids to graduate high school with.”
Salutatorian Allyson Morey, who will attend Gannon University next year to study biology and physical therapy, dedicated her speech to her grandmother, Gene Morey, who recently passed away. She encouraged graduates to celebrate their true achievements as individuals.
“Despite growing up in a small school with the same 40 kids, each of you became your own person. From watching this, I learned something. I learned the true meaning of achievement, and that it doesn’t always come in the form of a good grade, a title, or an award,” she explained. “True achievement comes from application. It is shown in a hundred different forms that each of you have displayed for me throughout the years, like in the relationships you have, how we interact with each other, all the things we hold dear, and what we consider worth living for.”
Valedictorian Sophia Jones, who will study nursing and math at the University at Buffalo next fall, was wearing a matching decorated cap with Morey, that said “I have my exit buddy,” a reference from Disney’s Finding Nemo. She also used her address to reflect on a personal achievement.
“When we were in seventh grade, we made time capsules in Mrs. Palmatier's class to open on the Class Night of our senior year. I wrote a letter to myself six years ago and in that letter to my future self, I created a list of goals I wanted to accomplish by the time I graduated. One of those goals was to achieve valedictorian, and another was to win the lottery. One out of two isn’t bad,” she said to a laugh from the crowd.
Raymond McCabe, a 1976 Pine Valley alumnus who is a partner in the law firm Barclay Damon LLP, delivered the Commencement Address, and left students with lessons from the 1999 song “Everybody’s Free” by Baz Luhrmann - wear sunscreen, dance, floss, take care of your knees, remember compliments, forget insults, keep your old love letters, throw out your old bank statements and don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. He added to this list by encouraging the graduates to give back.
“My biggest word of advice for you is participate,” he said. “Become a part of the community that has embraced you so hard. Do what you love to do … and share your experiences and learn from them. And please start doing little things to serve. … Don’t forget your families, vote, and for those of you going to college, … join any group that gives you fulfillment.”
Class president Molly Sunick presented McCabe with a gift following his address.
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.