JOHNSTOWN - Midway through the presentation of diplomas to Johnstown High School's class of 2012 Saturday, a sea of people packing the stands at sunny Knox Field rose in unison to single out a certain graduate and acknowledge her with a thundering ovation.
It was as if they were all the parents of Kelsey Insogna, who also rose to her feet, clad in a white graduation gown. Assisted by two fellow senior class members, she gingerly strode several feet to receive her diploma, receiving warm embraces and kisses from Greater Johnstown School District administrators.
"She did a great job," her emotional father, Christopher Insogna, said afterward. "I'm very proud of her."
Kelsey Insogna sits with her JHS?classmates Saturday during graduation at Knox Field. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Ackerbauer)
His daughter's senior year was a sea of emotions - its low point a tragedy that had rocked the community, its high point Saturday's joyous, crowning achievement.
The graduation of 17-year-old Kelsey Insogna was a special event for her and her family because she almost died in a car accident Dec. 4. She was a back-seat passenger in a car that wrecked at Routes 29 and Steele Avenue Extension in the town of Johnstown.
Her brother, Christopher, was killed; he also was a passenger. The driver, Justin M. VanNostrand, 20, of 186 Elmwood Ave., Gloversville, pleaded guilty June 13 to felony manslaughter and reckless endangerment counts and is slated to receive 2 1/3 to seven years in state prison when he is sentenced July 13 in Fulton County Court.
Kelsey, who was thrown from the vehicle, was airlifted with critical head and back injuries to the Albany Medical Center Hospital.
Her condition has been improved slowly, both physically and emotionally, as she goes through rehabilitation.
She had a determination to see her graduation day come to fruition, she said Saturday.
"I feel like giving up on school would have been the easy thing to do," Kelsey said before the commencement. "But I worked my butt off."
She basically missed six months of school, she said, but she was able to meet all her course requirements through hard work and with the assistance to two excellent tutors.
"They really helped me; they were wonderful," the new JHS graduate said.
Her family said Kelsey loved to babysit her young niece and bake cookies. She was involved in sports before the accident and had plans to join the National Guard after graduation, with a desire to be in the Air Force.
"I'm not sure of her plans," her father said following the graduation.
After the ceremony, Kelsey received best wishes from a host of family and friends outside Knox Junior High School.
"I think Kelsey being here today gives us all something to admire," JHS Principal Michael Beatty said Saturday.