Gathered family and friends cheered and applauded as the 168 graduates were led around the circle by the Mohawk Valley Frasers.
The Class of 2007 chose English teacher Dewayne Cronk to be the faculty speaker.
“I get a chance to learn as much from the kids as they do from me,” Cronk said. He joked that students taught him how to download music for free, legally. “There are so many talented and bright kids in the Class of 2007. It reaffirms my faith in the younger generations.”
He encouraged the graduates to pursue education, whether it be by attending college or by participating in on-the-job training or by going into the military.
Cronk told the graduates how the school’s former custodian, Jack Hall, who died of cancer recently, went back to school to earn a high school diploma.
“The fact that a man of Mr. Hall’s age felt the need to go back and earn his high school diploma, speaks to the power and value of an education,” he said.
Superintendent Ronald Spadafora agreed that the value of an education is great.
“Just by getting here today your lifetime earning potential increased by $1 million,” he said.
Graduates’ paths after high school vary with some joining the military, some going to college and others jumping right into the workforce.
“Let us consider the myriad of possibilities out there to be discovered,” said Valedictorian Zachary Lynch.
Misty Buell, 18, plans on following her brother’s footsteps and serving her country. He is in the Air Force and she will be joining the U.S. Marine Corps. Her goal is to pursue aviation.
“I was the only girl in all of my tech courses,” she said. “I don’t really feel like paying a fortune to go to college.”
Katie Sheridan, 17, will be attending the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania to study biology.
“I want to do something in medicine,” she said. But if that doesn’t work out, “University of Scranton has a really good occupational therapy program.”
Sheridan said she would miss her friends the most.
Rachel Donaldson, 18, will be attending SUNY Cortland where she will major in childhood education and special education.
Donaldson said growing up she and Sheridan wanted to be marine biologists and “that dream just kind of died.”
Like Sheridan, Katie Wartella, 18, will be going out of state to attend Springfield College in Massachusetts. She plans on studying occupational therapy.
“I’ve lived here all my life, knowing that next fall I’m not going to be back here is sad,” she said. But she plans on coming back. “I want to move back to Oneida.”
Wartella wants to take after her mother, who is a nurse, and work in the healthcare industry. Maybe even at Oneida Healthcare Center.
“My mom’s a nurse. I’ve always seen how hard she works and never wanted to be in healthcare. Now, I am looking forward to being in healthcare,” she said.
Aaron Winn, 18, plans to join the workforce immediately. He wants to stay in the Oneida area and said he may decide to attend college in the future.
Hope Johnson, 18, has been home-tutored since 9th grade due to a condition called RSDS, or Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome.
“It affects the sympathetic nerve system, it creates pain when their should be no pain,” said PJ Fisher, Johnson’s mother. “It was a long hard road-there were a couple of times she didn’t think she would make it, but she did.”
Fisher is proud of her daughter. Johnson would like to go to college to become a kindergarten teacher, but hasn’t decided on a school yet.
Johnson was glad to be a part of the ceremony Saturday.
“It’s different because I didn’t get to hang out with everybody but I did get to have a really awesome teacher, Mr. Fiacco,” she said.
Jim Fiacco teaches 10th and 12th grade social studies at Oneida. He doesn’t think current graduates are that much different than when he graduated.
“In some ways kids are more worldly. Some are less motivated, some are more motivated,” he said. “There’s a bigger gap between them and me when it comes to technology.”
Students were stuck between being happy and sad that their time at Oneida High School was over.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness-we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,” Salutatorian Jordan Jarecki quoted Charles Dickens to sum up his feelings of the past four years.
“High school was a time of dreams, hopes, expectations and goals,” he said. “A time to learn about ourselves and who we are as individuals. I am shocked by how much I have learned-how much I have changed.”
“Future generations of America rest in the hands of graduates like us,” Jarecki said.
Board of Education President Brian Simchik instructed the members of the Class of 2007 to take responsibility for their actions.
“Ready or not you’re responsible; legally, ethically and morally,” he said. “Recognize that being responsible and making decisions is a skill-requires practice.”
©The Oneida Daily Dispatch 2007