News Column

North Schuylkill sends 142 graduates into their futures

June 3, 2014

By John E. Usalis, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.



June 03--FOUNTAINSPRINGS -- The North Schuylkill School District sent 142 members of the Class of 2014 into their futures Monday during commencement exercises at Ghosh Orthodontics Field at Spartan Stadium.

The soon-to-be graduates processed from the high school into the athletic field as their parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, friends and others watched with pride from the bleachers on the beautiful, warm evening. Accompanying the graduates were faculty, administration and school board members, led by a twin motorcycle escort. The national anthem, complete with fireworks, was sung by the North Schuylkill Treble Makers Chorus. The North Schuylkill Spartan Band performed on the field.

The guest speaker was Frackville native James M. Jordan, who is a North Schuylkill graduate in the Class of 1971. A conductor and composer, Jordan was nominated for a Grammy Award earlier this year. The Grammy nomination was for James Whitbourn's "Annelies," which is the first major choral setting of the "The Diary of Anne Frank" and which was conducted by Jordan. The "Diary of Anne Frank" is the story of the Jewish family that hid itself away in Nazi-occupied Holland for most of World War II. "Annelies" is Frank's full first name.

"It is a great privilege and an honor to do this," Jordan said. "While I'm asked to do this in many places, this is the one that is the most meaningful."

Jordan spoke of his time in growing up in the area and attending the school and how much the influences he encountered pointed him in the direction his life took.

"I am honored to be here because I came from this place," he said. "The first bit of wisdom I want to share with all of you is that it really doesn't matter where you come from, but where you come from does play into what you become. Ashland, Frackville, Ringtown, Gordon. My students tell me that Frackville can't be a real place. There are thing that are great gifts growing in this area. Good people, caring people, hardworking people, people who give themselves freely to others."

Jordan gave the graduates a list of ideas and suggestions that will make their lives happy and successful.

The valedictorian and salutatorian were Rachael Metzinger and Matthew Smarkanic, respectively.

After welcoming everyone for attending the very special day for herself and her classmates, Metzinger offered her thanks to her parents for "always showing me the sunny side of a situation," and her twin sister Sarah, who "continues to show me every single day what true determination and selflessness looks like."

Metzinger's theme of her speech was "Anything Can Happen."

"It was only four days ago that I was told I would be speaking in front of all of you tonight. My initial reaction was shock, shortly followed by a brief panic attack," Metzinger said. "Then I was told I would need a title the following morning, and a finished speech the morning after that."

Metzinger came up with the theme and "time" seemed to be an appropriate focus.

"Since Day One at North Schuylkill, the concept of graduation has been instilled in our minds," she said. "We were taught to work towards this moment, and for a while it felt to me as if I was wasting and wishing time away to get to where we are now -- the finish line. Now, I realize that this was a silly thing to think because no time spent here was truly wasted."

Metzinger spoke of experiences she and her friends had in their senior year and how important they are.

"We are all a part of a moment in time, and this moment is unlike any other," Metzinger said. "Even though graduation ceremonies and graduation speeches aren't the most original things in the world, the people they are delivered to always are."

Metzinger closed with some advice to her fellow graduates.

"Be patient, never give up, live in the moment and cherish it," she said. "Expect the unexpected because 'Anything Can Happen' after all."

Smarkanic decided to focus on time through a sport metaphor by dividing the years in school in his speech, "How to Build a Team."

"Any athlete could tell you that the lessons learned through competition go far beyond the field and the gym," he said. "I thought it would be perfect for me to compose a speech as through the four quarters of an athletic event."

The "first quarter" were the primary and early elementary years at the schools in Ashland, Frackville and Ringtown.

"We needed to learn so many things: How to be a friend, how to be a teammate, and how to be a student," Smarkanic said. "There were many challenges, but red and blue soon became our colors of choice."

The "second quarter" was the middle school years, which included sixth grade and moving into the new elementary building.

"More teammates, more competition, more rivalries. We each had our strengths, but we also had our weaknesses," he said. "It was during this quarter that our biggest competitors were each other. Our teachers became our referees."

The "third quarter" and "fourth quarter" were in the high school years.

"A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contributions to praise the skill of others," Smarkanic said. "Working together was our success ... We recognize singing idols, future Broadway stars and college athletes. We have the potential to excel in law, science and medicine. We might possibly have the next governor of Pennsylvania, or the future fire chief of a major city sitting in our midst. And hopefully our friend who wants to work at Disney won't forget us when we need tickets."

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(c)2014 the Republican & Herald (Pottsville, Pa.)

Visit the Republican & Herald (Pottsville, Pa.) at republicanherald.com

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Source: Republican & Herald (Pottsville, PA)


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