POUGHKEEPSIE – More than 200 graduates filled the auditorium of Poughkeepsie High School on Friday for the school’s 141st Commencement Exercises.
So many proud friends and family attended that some had to watch from a closed circuit feed in the school’s gymnasium. That didn’t deter any, however, from cheering on the graduates.
U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney told the graduates, "Today is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another." He encouraged them to continue to reach for higher goals as they haven’t yet reached their peak – a comparison he made to the summer solstice (the day when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky).
"Today is not your solstice. Use today to go higher. You haven’t peaked yet," Maloney said to the students.
Julia Rigothi gave the Valedictory Address. She was quick to remind her fellow graduates of their days at Poughkeepsie High School. She reminisced about all the interesting events, good and bad. "I would not want to change my high school years," she proclaimed.
"Words can’t describe how Poughkeepsie High School has changed me for the better," Rigothi said. She now feels confident that no matter how hard struggles in life are, she won’t give up. "Move forward and persevere," she told the graduates.
The Marist bound Valedictorian encouraged the graduates to thank their parents. "Thank them for their unconditional love and support," which was met with thunderous applause.
Her final piece of advice for the Class of 2013: Always believe in yourself. If you don’t, who will?
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laval Wilson, who is retiring said he appreciated the opportunity to serve for the district for the last seven years. "There is clearly work to be done, but we have achieved a lot." He hailed the graduates’ persistence and wished them all success.
It was a bittersweet day as all of the graduates were painfully aware of the one chair that remained empty. The special chair, draped in a white graduation gown, was reserved for Shequila Brown, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver back in March. Overcome with emotion, her mother, Janice Shell accepted her daughter’s diploma and received a standing ovation from the Class of 2013.