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Diplomas for 116 at HVRHS

FALLS VILLAGE — The 116 members of the class of 2011 heard about perseverance, defining one’s own self, and the importance of giving back to the community at a graduation ceremony at Housatonic Valley Regional High School on Friday, June 17.The ceremony was held indoors because of the threat of heavy rain. Only a few graduations have been held out on the grassy oval in front of the school in recent years.Salutatorian Reilly Lynch said the fact of his imminent graduation hadn’t really sunk in until after his last exam two days earlier. He realized “in two days something much bigger” was going to occur.On behalf of his classmates, he thanked the parents “who dragged us out of bed” during their high school careers.“In the end, they must have done something right.”And he thanked the faculty and administration. “They guided a group of unruly teenagers to the other side — mostly in one piece.”Class president Michael Kenny thanked his teachers for inspiring him to expand his range of interests. “Thanks to the wisdom of some of my teachers I slowly became more and more positive about English and history.”“Don’t let go of these passions,” he added. “They help define who we are.”Essayist Spencer Gerowe sounded a cautionary note. “Don’t go crazy with your new freedom,’ he said. “Set a goal.”“I look to the future with a sense of hope. All of us can make it big.”Guest speakers Audrey Fisher and Jim Weiskopf, from the Fisher House Foundation, urged the graduates to concentrate on giving back to their community and the nation. The foundation runs a network of Fisher Houses, “a home away from home,” for families of military patients receiving medical care at major military and Veterans Administration medical centers. Fisher said there is nothing more important and rewarding than “working for the betterment of others.”“The reward is feeling good that you have improved the life of others, and that the group is more important than the individual.”“It’s not charity, it’s duty” added Weiskopf. He said that simply thanking a member of the military for their service “is no longer enough.”“If you want to do something, consider a monetary contribution, or volunteer.“Do it quietly, do it with sincerity, do it with conviction.”Valedictorian Olivia Montoya remembered arriving at Housatonic as a freshman, with the usual jitters, “and still needing to read ‘The Iliad’ in its entirety and write an essay.”As the graduates move ahead in what she termed “this complicated and confusing Rube Goldberg machine of life,” she exhorted her classmates “to be open-minded and listen to your conscience before being swayed by popular opinion.”“You define you, and don’t let anyone tell you anything different.”

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