What they said

Many words of inspiration at Chester commencement ceremony

Make text smaller Make text larger


  • Brendan Mallon, Valedictorian (Photos by Ginny Privitar - click blue arrow to the right for more photos)

  • Billi Easley, Salutatorian

  • Susan Barberi, of the Chester PTA, presented a gift to Leslie Hyatt.

  • Nick Seabrook with mom, Angela

  • Nick Seabrook, Matt Perry and Larry Young.

  • Larry Young, Chris Wittekind, Tyler M. Wendland

  • Marcella Brosnan, Billi Easley, Gaby Clark, Samantha Curtis, Brian Danilak.

  • "I just graduated, but that’s none of your business."

  • Board of Ed members and administrators: Front, John Paisichnyk, Sandra Nagler, BOE President Frank Sambets, Superintendent Sean Michel; Back, Principal Cindy Walsh, Ed Spence, Chris Trieste, Lea Kaufer-Morganstein.

  • Jaromir Seabrook was there to cheer on his younger brother, Nick.

  • "Thank you, Mom and Dad."

By Ginny Privitar

— The school gym was filled with the families and friends of the graduates at Chester Academy’s one hundred twenty-ninth annual Commencement on Friday, June 27.

The ceremony was especially rich with words of inspiration that lifted spirits and engaged minds. Here's a sample:

Brendan Mallon, Valedictorian, will be attending Northeastern University.

Brendon urged everyone to remember what they were like in elementary school and how difficult middle school and high school each appeared when they were on the horizon. Yet they persevered.

“Now look at us," he said, “heading off to college or trade school or out into the world of work or even the military. I think it’s safe to say we’re all a little bit afraid of whatever comes next. I know that I am.

“Once you get your degree, success is completely up to you, I’m sure this next transition won’t go smoothly for all of us. Some of us have some growing up to do, and I’m not counting myself out of that group.”

“Don’t be afraid of failure; better men and women before you have stumbled. Just pick yourself up and throw yourself at the obstacle. As Emerson said, 'Our greatest glory lies not in never falling, but in rising up every time we fall.' When you do fall, because we all will at some point, and we all have, remember back to that small, naïve, fifth-grade you...and look at just how far you’ve come....

"As we once again move on, let’s try to remember our past success and dream of what will come next.”

Billi Easley, Salutatorian, will attend Williams College and major in economics.

Billi thanked the outgoing principal, LeslieHyatt: “Few principals have devoted themselves to a class as you have to ours.”

He spoke of millions of high school seniors, all across the country, graduating about now, being told the weight of the future is on their shoulders.

“That’s a serious responsibility, one that none of us asked for," he said. "But if you ever feel intimidated by it, look around at your fellow graduates; look at how many amazing, talented, hard-working individuals are there to help, should you struggle with that task.”

He said life is “about learning to enjoy every day....It’s about knowing your life, owning it, and most importantly, choosing to use it rather than letting it use you. Because then, if you make that effort, you won’t have to wait for happiness to find you. Your happiness will be your own choice. In all the ways that matter, you will have control over your life....

“Live for yourself but do it selflessly. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Board of Education President Frank Sambets gave a commencement address sprinkled with humor.

“You hold a very special place in my heart, for obvious reasons,” Sambets said. “And I’m honored that I had a small role in helping shape some of your lives. Whether I was your soccer coach, or perhaps it was Little League, or girls’ softball, or more likely, possibly the best CCD teacher you ever, ever had....

"You are not only great students, great athletes, amazing artists and musicians, but you have also become great citizens in our community. As board members, we travel all around Orange County and New York State."

Sambets told the assembly that Chester is always spoken highly of for its academics, facilities and technology. But even more importantly, “We hear from people what a great student body we have and a great student community that we created in Chester. It speaks purely to the character of all of you. You have set examples, not only for your underclassmen, but for students in other districts and around the county and the state. If anyone thinks back to this football season, where one team’s bus broke down, they lost one of their quarterbacks tragically before that game, and our football team stepped up. They treated that school like their own. And that also speaks to your parents and the examples that we set as a community in Chester.”

Sambets urged the students to never forget that sense of community, and to “Take every opportunity that comes your way. Live for every new experience."

Principal Hyatt gave a heartfelt address. At times, the emotion of leaving was evident in her voice.

“We have enjoyed a profession and personal relationship for 13 years; a rare occurrence in public education," Hyatt said. “I have some profound advice for the class of 2014....I hate to be the one to tell you this, but life isn’t always a fairy tale....Life might just throw you a curveball and health or personal issues may get in the way of your success. The playing field of life is not always equal. So what can you do? The answer is be prepared. Don’t think anything is a sure thing. Don’t take any person in your life for granted. And when things don’t go your way, you must be able to pick yourself up, regroup and start again. This does not mean you stop fighting for truth and for fairness.”

Hyatt urged the graduates to cherish their family and friends. “Learn from the past, prepare for the future, but always live for today. As you leave our school home today, I would like to thank your parents for loaning you to me for 13n years....Our paths may never cross again. But I hope that you will think back, maybe at your children’s high school graduation, and remember what an amazing time we had.”

Her voice broke as she said, “I hope that the road rises to meet us all and the sun be ever at our backs and that we all have many, many more 'happily ever afters.'" The audience rose as one and gave her a standing ovation.

Make text smaller Make text larger


Pool Rules


George O'Keefe of Goshen, N.Y., dies at age 92
George O'Keefe of Goshen, N.Y., died Saturday, June 15, 2019, at Glen Arden of Goshen. He was 92.
Son of Francis and Julia (Gobower) O'Keefe, he was born Feb. 26, 1927, in New...

Read more »

Joseph R. Zielinski of Middletown, N.Y., dies at age 84
Joseph R. Zielinski of Middletown, N.Y., passed away, Friday, June 14, 2019, at Orange Regional Medical Center of Middletown. He was 84.
Son of the late Bruno Frank and the...

Read more »

Julia H. Parsons of Goshen, N.Y., dies at age 88
Julia H. Parsons of Goshen, N.Y., entered into rest on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, at her daughter's home in Bloomingburg, N.Y. She was 88.
Julia was born Dec. 12, 1930 in the...

Read more »

Dion R. Sharp of Chester, N.Y., dies at age 49
Dion R. Sharp of Chester, N.Y., a maintenance care coordinator at the Westchester Medical Center in Mount Pleasant, N.Y., and a 15-year area residence, died suddenly on Tuesday,...
Read more »


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Community Newspapers


Feeling lucky, despite the odds
  • Jun 13, 2019
Where in clues
Where in Chester?
  • Jun 13, 2019
Letters to the Editor
Ignore appalling survey about the Greens at Chester
  • Jun 10, 2019


Find more about Weather in Chester, NY