Graduation sounds a solemn note

Joy is mixed with sadness as graduates mourn loss of a beloved classmate, look forward to the future

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  • Lucas Maxwell Graves, teacher and coach Edward Killenberger, Erica Lee Miller, Amanda Gelhaus, and Bernadette Smith, at the podium, offer tribute to Lance Golubinski.(Photo by Ginny Privitar)

“Above academics, art, music and athletics, society craves good people. We need individuals who will be able to put the idea of a larger group above themselves.
Principal Kurtis Kotes

By Ginny Privitar

— "This year has been a really rough one."

At Goshen's graduation last Saturday, four students — Amanda Florence Gelhaus, Erica Lee Miller, Lucas Maxwell Graves, and Bernadette E. Smith, along with Coach Ed Killenberger — delivered a moving tribute to Lance Golubinski, a beloved member of the Class of 2014 killed in a car accident only two months ago.

"Lance truly was a ray of sunshine and above all the best kind of friend.”

“We are all so incredibly blessed to have had a chance to know him....If there’s one thing that’s for sure, he knew he was loved.”

“No matter where we go and what we do, Lance will always be in our hearts.”

Graduation was also a time to say goodbye to students entering the military. James Emery, a former Marine and Goshen Central School District employee, paid tribute to five young men: Travis Bauer, USMC; Michael Florkowski, USCG; Derek Martin US Army; Tannor Reynolds, US Army; and Thomas Wunder, USCG. A sixth graduate, Zachary Mayfield, who committed to the Marines, and whose name was omitted from the program, was recognized shortly afterward. Emery also paid tribute to veterans in the audience.

Words of wisdom and humor

The six honor students offered words of wisdom and humor.

“I’m a man of few words," said Nikolas Vanderhoof, getting right to the point. "Congratulations to the class of 2014. I wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors.”

Charles Cerillo said Goshen High School was one of the most remarkable schools in the area, "a place of intellectual and artistic excellence, a bastion of knowledge, a football powerhouse....We’ve already thanked our parents, but please, let’s thank them again, as we now need them for our tuition bills.”

Michael Wolek told fellow students to "never be discouraged, never hold back, and when you fall throughout life, as we all will....maybe after a few too many glasses of champagne, remember this, fall forward.”

Nicole Irace said, "This moment is bittersweet," and went on, with humor, to thank her teachers and her parents.

Nicholas Whittel promised to keep his remarks short, especially since the musicians in the band and choir had to sit in the hot sun attired in black.

“Now that we are graduating, our past failures have no meaning,” he said. “It is up to us to dictate how much failure we will see in the future. Whether we are moving on to further education, into the military, or into the workforce, we must all work to achieve our goals. And if we don’t reach them, we must take each failure lightly, and never give up.”

Margaret Marie Conley spoke of choices. “Life is full of endless possibilities, creating endless choices and therefore endless obstacles," she said. "Something my dad always says is, ‘We can choose to be happy.'....Happiness is what makes life meaningful, no matter how sad, or difficult or annoying it may be at times.”

Principal Kurtis Kotes talked about how the class had been challenged and overcome obstacles. He then remarked that he'd said to himself: “They don’t want to hear you ramble; get to the point and give them their diplomas,” which brought cheers and applause.

But then his remarks turned serious.

“We must come to the understanding that our differences are not a vast thing, but a reason to take a moment and try to understand where they are coming from," he said. "It doesn’t mean we have to agree or change our opinion, but at least respect others enough to allow them to have a voice and share thoughts on a topic or situation.

“There will be many moments where you will be challenged by this task. Individuals will come into your lives who will push you sometimes into places of anger and disdain. Rise above the situation. Think about what the message is they are trying to convey. Many times you will find that compromise will be your greatest ally.

“Above academics, art, music and athletics, society craves good people. We need individuals who will be able to put the idea of a larger group above themselves.”

Julia Siracuse, Student Senate President, gave a humorous speech incorporating theater terms. “Now, Class of 2014,” Siracuse intoned, “it’s time for us to climb every mountain and follow every rainbow until we find our dream. Our show is coming to a close. It’s time for us to shine on another stage.”

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