Graduating Class of 2019 encouraged to pay it forward with acts of kindness

The Fonda-Fultonville Class of 2019 is shown during their commencement ceremony on Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

FONDA — Students aren’t the only ones who learn in high school.

At yesterday’s class of 2019 commencement, Fonda-Fultonville School Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio said the class taught him a lot.

They were fourth-graders when he came to the district, and he recalled distinct events that educated him.

Ciaccio recalled pitching in dodge ball for an elementary class when a boy tripped after being hit in the heel by a dodge ball.

“It was a bloody mess,” he said.

Students of the Fonda-Fultonville Class of 2019 received diplomas at commencement yesterday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Before he could take a step toward him, all the boys and girls rushed to help the boy to the nurse’s office, he said.

Ciaccio said he was so impressed that, despite the competitiveness of the game, the children were so quick to help. It was a lesson about “helping our friends, our neighbors, strangers.”

He also recalled what happened after he brought a bag of artifacts of himself to a fourth-grade class. On another day, a girl came to him with her bag after reading about how to make a good first impression. She introduced herself, shook his hand, and looked him in the eye–which was a lesson in making a good impression, he said.

While he was visiting a kindergarten class, two older elementary students brought in two books to read to the kindergarteners. One was “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed,” a tale about a girl who picked blueberries and gave them to a neighbor woman who never left her house. The woman then baked blueberry muffins for the neighborhood. And the chain of good deeds continued.

Ciaccio said that event led him to create the Character Honor Roll, which recognized kindness or community service. It ran for five years.

Two students of the Fonda-Fultonville class of 2019 are all smiles as they await their diplomas at commencement Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

He encouraged the graduating seniors to pay forward acts of kindness and helpfulness.

Four honor students gave addresses: Massimo DiCaprio, Ashley Eaves, Katilyn Hall and Taylor Etherton.

They all reminisced about their school years. “This day,” Etherton said, “is bittersweet; bitter because our time as a Fonda-Fultonville student has come to an end and this may be the last time we are under one roof together, but sweet because we have years worth of memories that we are able to look back on as we move forward with our lives.”

DiCaprio talked about the difficult and boring times as well as the fun. His final advice was “be a class act, stick to your moral compass and 20 years from now–look back with no regrets.”

Hall talked about memories of “wearing those small yellow shirts with smiley face on them in kindergarten” to the tougher times–“many of us struggling through calculus and physics together,” but she credited the teachers and parents who helped them.

Fonda-Fultonville high School band members play a selection during the Saturday commencement ceremony. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Eaves had a different story since her house was destroyed by the 2011 Hurricane Irene and she joined the Fonda-Fultonville district in sixth grade. She recalled having to work extra hard “since more challenging work didn’t come as naturally to me as to others.” She urged her classmates to persevere and pick themselves up even if they experience failure.

Eighty-three graduated, all with mixed feelings.

Students in the Fonda-Fultonville class of 2019 join underclassmen in a choral arrangement at the commencement Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Massimo DiCaprio is one of four honor students who gave addresses at the Fonda-Fultonville commencement ceremonies Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)