St. Marys Area High School Class of 2011 student speakers Natalie Schwer, salutatorian, and Gianna DeMuro, valedictorian, recollected high school memories and hopes for the future during the school's annual commencement program held Friday evening.
As part of Schwer's speech, she referenced lessons portrayed in the Disney movie "Finding Nemo" as to what the new graduates may encounter in the real world following high school, including making new friends and embarking on a journey of self-discovery.
She noted that as each of them have grown older, they have been blessed with the desire to experience various things and take on new adventures.
"Of course, teachers have played a huge role in shaping our lives. They have given us information and the knowledge that we needed, but many of them have given us much more. In quite a few cases, it is because of these teachers that we have passion. Many of them have inspired us to take chances or to broaden our horizons," Schwer stated. "It is because of these teachers that we stand before you now, a class made up of creative writers, skilled athletes, talented musicians and artists, aspiring engineers and craftsmen, mathematicians and scientists."
She credited parents and family members for watching out for the graduates, who have benefitted from their guidance, and providing a solid foundation and the basics of many lessons no one else could teach.
"No words could express how thankful we are for all that you've done, but we can only hope that you understand our gratitude and the appreciation we have for all the sacrifices you have made and the encouragement you have given. It is because of you that we are standing on this stage now," she added.
As her wish for her fellow graduates, Schwer encouraged them to "just keep swimming," referencing a popular quote from the movie.
DeMuro offered thoughts on what others may define as a successful person, such as driving a nice car, living in a mansion or holding a position of power.
"I have recently realized that this description could not be more flawed. If there is one thing that I have learned from my family, it is that success is personal," DeMuro said. "Success is what each of us decides, it is not what society tells us it should be.
"It is important to remember that we have spent many years acquiring the skills we need to prosper and each one of us is capable of being successful in our own way."
"For some of us, this evening marks the end of education process. Others may be looking forward to a decade more. The rest fall somewhere in between. For none of us does this evening mark our ultimate achievement. Rather, it marks the end of one undertaking and the beginning of a new adventure," DeMuro said. "I would like to thank you all for an amazing four years. Each one of you has helped to make my high school experience a unique one. I love you all, and wish you nothing but the best."