As the Niskayuna High School Class of 2013 graduated, inspiration to
dream big, take risks, and remember that Niskayuna will always be home came
from many sources: classmates, school leaders, the U.S. Attorney's office â€“
and even a little rock and roll. The school graduated 354 students in a
ceremony at Proctor's Theatre in downtown Schenectady on Thursday, June 20.
"Life is about to change for us," class President Andrea Wade said as she congratulated her classmates and welcomed friends and family. "What we learned at Niskayuna will guide us well in the future."
In her congratulatory remarks, Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio encouraged students to not be afraid of failure, invoking a quote from Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won't work."
"My hunch is that you will be defined, for the better, by how you respond to adversity," Salvaggio told graduates. "Go find the things that don't work. Embrace that journey. Embrace it with creativity and vigor. It's the only way to find out what you will find out what you are truly passionate about â€“ what will lead to success and happiness for yourself and those around you."
The ceremony included three musical selections by student groups, including "Some Things Are Meant To Be" performed by a quartet and "Omnia Sol" presented by a 10-student ensemble. Five students traded their caps and gowns for guitars and drums to deliver a performance of the Lynard Skynard rock classic "Free Bird."
View the commencement program [PDF]
In keeping with tradition, this year's exchange students were presented with their class rings at graduation â€“ a gift from the school and the Class of 2013.
"We would like to thank Niskayuna High School for making this year an unforgettable year," said Martin Thode, who came to Niskayuna from Denmark. He was joined on stage by Alicia Quirin, of Germany. A third exchange student, Kateryna Bob, Ukraine, return home prior to the ceremony.
The graduation ceremony also includes the annual induction into the Niskayuna High School Hall of Fame. This year, the committee selected U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian, a 1979 graduate, who was introduced by Board of Education President Deborah Oriola.
In 2009, Hartunian was successfully nominated by President Barack Obama to be the 48th U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York State, a 32-county district that stretches from the Southern Tier, north to Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Canadian border. A Georgetown graduate and former assistant district attorney in Albany County, Hartunian has dedicated much of his professional career to enforcing drug and immigration laws, as well as fighting organized crime. He was an assistant U.S. attorney from 1997 to 2009.
He recalled how the support of family, coaches, and teachers helped him transition from a nervous Niskayuna High School freshmen to a student that took advantage of opportunities at the school to develop his confidence, abilities, and dreams.
"With the educational and social foundation that this school provided for me, I learned to dream big dreams â€“ to believe that I could do anything I set my mind to," Hartunian said. "That is the gift that Niskayuna High School gave to me â€“ the ability to believe in myself."
He encouraged students to chase their dreams and passions, whether they were in the arts, politics, math, science, athletics or a trade.
"All of you have one thing in common â€“ the ability to succeed, achieve, and accomplish," Hartunian said. "Explore. Dream. Discover. My wish for you, the Class of 2013 is that you not be afraid to dream big dreams and achieve big goals. They are well within your reach.
As part of the ceremony, Class Vice President Junia George and Treasurer Andrew Sail thanked class advisors Kristin Richard and Brandi Weidman, as well as the school's administration and teachers and staff for all that they had done to enrich their high school experience. Class secretary Joseph Nuqui and Historian Marianna O'Brien announced the class gift, a donation to the Broadcast Club to continue bringing live, televised announcements to the student body.
The spirit of gratitude for family, friends, teachers, coaches, counselors, and school leaders was reflected in each graduate's remarks.
"It is important to remember the community and the people who loved and supported us. Niskayuna High School taught us more than a curriculum," Class President Wade said. "No matter where life may take us, the path back home to Niskayuna will always be clear. We can go out and live our dreams and remember the homes we all came from."