OPPENHEIM - The Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District celebrated the end of an era and the beginning of another one at its 69th annual commencement Saturday.
The Class of 2013 was the last group of students to graduate from Oppenheim-Ephratah before the district merges with the St. Johnsville school district in the fall.
Principal Brett Barr explained the importance of culture to the 15 graduates as they take the next step in life.
Members of Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District’s Class of 2013 wait to get their diplomas Saturday during commencement. (The Leader-Herald/Casey Croucher)
"This is the end of an era, but it cannot be the end of a culture," he said. "Our culture is comprised of acceptance and appreciation. Culture is the most important thing you can learn."
Valedictorian Ashley Hill enlightened her classmates with humor and knowledge. She explained the "13 lessons you actually learn in high school," which included the art of procrastination, not worrying what people will think of you, making new friends and never changing to make someone else happy.
"High school is the time of our lives where we do the most changing," she said. "Many things influence what makes us us. Life lessons seem to be just as common as educational lessons in high school. Hopefully, this graduating class takes a mixture of both as we go out and face that big, bad world that awaits us."
Salutatorian Tiffany Gallt talked about the "dreaded 50-year reunion" and how she wasn't sure she would remember all of her classmates' names. However, she explained a few tricks to help her remember every individual graduate in her class. Gallt had her classmates smiling and laughing at all of the memories they had shared together.
"I wouldn't change a single thing about my high school experience, or anybody in it," she said. "Even when I'm old and gray, I'll always remember our class filled with nothing but shenanigans. I wanted to thank every one of you for being part of my high school experience and, hopefully, my 50-year reunion as well."
Senior speaker Paige Songer, who was the Honor Society president, quoted a Dave Matthews Band song, "Could I have been anyone other than me?"
She stressed the importance of being true to oneself.
"The most important thing is that you never forget who you are and why you are who you are," Songer said. "Remember that this is the time when we start to grow as a person. Stay true to yourself and don't let others' opinions morph you into the person you think you're supposed to be."