JOHNSTOWN - Johnstown High School's top two seniors relayed similar messages in their speeches Saturday morning to the 2012 graduating class - you're going to fail and fail again in life, but don't give up.
JHS valedictorian Ashley Polidore recounted a message her mother gave her a couple years ago that inspired her. The message read, in part: "Stay positive, never give up, don't give in to negativity. Go out and make a difference in this crazy world. I have always had the feeling that you will go and do great things."
"If I could make all of you retain one part of what I just said to you, it would be the part about staying positive and never giving up," Polidore told her fellow seniors Saturday morning at Knox Field. "No one becomes successful over night. Times will get tough, and it'll take serious effort, but you cannot give up."
JHS class of 2012 valedictorian Ashley Polidore smiles as she leaves the podium at the end of her speech during graduation Saturday at Knox Field in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Ackerbauer)
A total of 136 students graduated in perfect sunny weather at Johnstown High School's 131st commencement ceremony. The procession of graduating seniors wound down a hill from Knox Junior High School, around the track and onto the field facing the grandstands. One senior boy "Tebowed," going down on one knee before accepting his diploma. Many of the graduates threw their mortarboards into the air upon receiving their diplomas. At one point, purple and yellow balloons were launched into the air by a parent.
Polidore also related the story of celebrated Hollywood animator and filmmaker Walt Disney, who filed bankruptcy for failed business ventures before making the iconic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."
"Obviously, he didn't let that stop him," the valedictorian said. "For four years, he ignored the skeptics and critics as he worked on his beloved movie."
Polidore said she wanted to leave the class with six "good habits." They were: be proactive, have an endpoint or goal, sort out priorities, think optimistically, synergize, and remember "there is always room for improvement."
Salutatorian Kyle Pollak advised graduates to let failure be the "fire" that fuels them.
He remembered how in the summer of 2010, he qualified to race at Loretta Lynn's Amateur National Motocross Championship, but he had failed many times before that.
"There is nothing that will excite a fire with more heat in your belly that being told you cannot do something, that you will fail," he said. "Let this fire burn, let it be the power you draw upon, let it take you to where you need to go ... I cannot stress how important it is that you do not fold under the pressure that the possibility of failure can place on you."
The recognition of award winners was done by Superintendent Robert DeLilli, Principal Michael Beatty and Assistant Principal Raymond Ruby.
The JHS Wind Ensemble provided music selections for graduation. The Chamber Choir did a vocal selection, "What A Wonderful World."