Avon Grove 2015 Commencement: Graduates say 'Goodbye' to Alexander
By Richard Gaw
It was a night of speeches, some humorous and some reflective.
It was a night of memories and expectations.
For the more than 400 graduates of Avon Grove High School's Class of 2015 however, it may well be remembered as the night they said 'Goodbye' to the only high school principal they will ever know.
Serving as master of ceremonies for his last commencement exercise at the high school, departing principal Thomas Alexander was warmly greeted by the entire student body with a belting, "Thanks, Mr. A," as the festivities got underway on June 10 at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.
In April, Alexander, who had served as Avon Grove's principal for the past 11 years, was appointed to serve as the district’s director of educational support services, a position he will begin on July 1.
In his welcoming address, Alexander said that each student created their own "personal history" over the past 17 or 18 years, which was shaped not only by their family and their community, but by their experiences at Avon Grove High School.
"Remember the times of difficulty and remember the times of great success," he said. "They will help guide you through your next challenges in life. As time passes, new experiences create new chapters in your personal history and they will start to play an increasing role in your future."
Ushered into the arena by the opening strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" by the Avon Grove High School Graduation Band, under the direction of Rebecca Staznik, the graduates then settled in for 90-minute event that featured speeches by several of their classmates. In his speech, "There Are No Retakes," salutatorian Conner McPartland strung together a rhymed verse that read in part, "I don't know want to know what lies in your belly, but this place, this space, this base, has shown us grace."
Class valedictorian Matthew Lertola told his fellow graduates that they are free to remember their high school years however way they choose.
"You can remember it any way you want," Lertola said, after recalling some humorous experiences he had. "If you loved your time at AGHS, be glad it happened rather than sad it's over. If that confiscated phone sophomore year or the lack of senior privileges this year made your high school experience miserable, then I have excellent news for you: You can start fresh in about two hours."
Prior to the distribution of diplomas, class president Damian Kuthoore's address, "Glossophobia," revealed his fear of public speaking, which began when he "bombed" his 8th-grade speech.
"Year after year, it never really got easier, yet I never shied away from public speaking," he said. "What I learned was that the only way to overcome my fears was to face them head on."
Additional speeches were presented by Jimmy Francis, Matt Imming, Jacklyn Rind, Taylor Harper and Devin Rudisill. Another highlight of the commencement was the school's Senior Ensemble, who were led by Sandra Ayon, Jessica Myers and Wendell Woods – and accompanied by Louise Crossan – during a performance of Green Day's "Good Riddance."
Many student speakers made reference in their speeches to Raziel Mireles and Ian Fischer, two Avon Grove students who died during the past school year.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.