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Chester County Press

A day for smiles and congratulations

06/07/2017 02:24PM ● By J. Chambless

Graduates get ready to toss their caps at the end of the ceremony.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The 94th annual commencement of Unionville High School was held on June 7, with the usual mix of nerves, pomp, grins and heartfelt speeches.

The ceremony at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center began with the Concert Band, led by Scott Litzenberg, playing “A Nation's Prayer.” The UHS Chorale, under the direction of Jason Throne, performed “The Star Spangled Banner,” the UHS Alma Mater and “Benediction” by John Conahan before Unionville principal James Conley took the podium to address the students and their families.

“I need to impart some wisdom to you that is so riveting that you will cherish for the rest of your lives,” Conley said. “Here goes: Raising a teenager is really difficult.”

Conley said he is now the father of a 13-year-old son, so he is adjusting to the demands of parenting a teen.

“The motto for the Conley home this summer is 'Be That Guy.' That means striving to become the

idealized person who we all want to strive to be. The version of us that is our best self,” Conley said. There is a sign hanging in Conley's son's room that lists ways to “Be that guy,” which Conley quoted: “Be that guy who sits with the kid in the cafeteria who is sitting alone. Be that guy who works hard everyday. Be that guy who says thank you to all of his teachers. Be that guy who high-fives all of his teammates after every play, even if they miss the shot or drop the pass. Be that guy who tells people they are doing a great job.

“Members of the Class of 2017, can you do these things next year and beyond? Are you willing to be that person who we can all count on? Are you willing to be that person who is kind, just because

kindness is the right thing?”

Conley also told the graduates to “Live a life that is filled with compassion, support, empathy, and most

importantly, kindness.”

John Sanville, Superintendent of Schools, told the seniors, “If we were to add up the hours you spent in classrooms, on homework, playing sports, making music, pursuing your interests, on bus rides, and doing any number of other things that contributed directly to this moment, it would be a very large number. However, if I were to ask you to tell me what you liked best, you would tell me about the moments, conversations, observations, revelations, discoveries -- all the little things that made your time in UCF so special. It is the little things that add up to big things for all of us.

“Farewell,” Sanville concluded. “I wish you health, happiness, and endless opportunities to pursue your dreams. You have everything you need, so go forth and set the world on fire. We look forward to hearing the stories of your success.”

Student honor speaker Dina Spyropoulos told her classmates that they are on the path to greatness. “The reason each of you is here is because you accepted the challenge,” she said. “We have persevered. It's crucial to take that with you as you walk across this stage today. Allow yourself to accept, to learn and to persevere. Each one of you sitting here is a success. Do your best to make you proud of you.”

Student honor speaker Jessica Homitz recited an original poem that ended with an invitation: “So traverse the asteroid fields, ride on the tails of comets, and sail on the solar winds. Go shake the universe and its old atoms. Because after all is said and done, we too are made of these ancient elements but packaged in marrow, sinew and beating hearts. Utilize the ideas in your brain and the stardust in your veins.”

Each year, seniors vote for the UHS Educator of the Year, and this year's winner was English teacher Andrew Dippell, who presented an often humorous speech that had a serious message at its core. Recalling how, during his own school days, he had passed up a chance to reach out to a classmate who was regarded as an outsider, he said, “When you're part of the 'in crowd,' you owe it to yourself to draw in all those considered weird.” Dippell praised the students sitting in the crowd. “A lot of you here today have shown acceptance I should have shown all those years ago,” he said.

After the diplomas were awarded, the caps tossed and the students filed out to greet family members and friends for hugs and photos outside the Bob Carpenter Center, it was Conley's words that perhaps best summed up the event: “Our society is counting on your bravery and courage to be the best version of yourself,” he said. “Our society needs someone who will boldly challenge others if an inequality needs to be addressed. Our society needs that person to speak for those who have no voice. Our society needs that person who will make others feel as though they can be the best version of themselves. Our society needs that person to make people feel safe. Our society needs that person to be a leader of our future.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].