Fear Not, Graduates

It was all pomp and circumstance Friday night.

Southwestern High School held its 67th annual commencement ceremony at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts.

To begin the ceremony, Michael Cipolla, high school principal, wished a “speedy recovery” to Michael Bova, a Southwestern senior who was in the Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo at the time of commencement due to cardiac-related issues. Kristy Carlson, assistant principal, held up a tablet throughout the event so that Bova could participate from afar via video chat, much to the appreciation of his fellow classmates who encouraged him with a standing ovation and cheers.

Cipolla said that one character trait defined the Class of 2014 – compassion for others.

“You have brought compassion to a new level,” Cipolla said. “You have given time and have been dedicated to serving others.”

Cipolla spoke of a critical influence in his life, his grandmother, who was an immigrant that worked hard for her family and was compassionate toward others. He said the his grandmother taught herself math so that she could help him learn the subject.

“Compassion for others defined her life,” Cipolla said.

Daisie Jane Bancroft and Amy-Katherine Turner, class co-secretaries, welcomed attendees. Valedictorian Jordan Powers and Kristen Marie Baggiano, class co-treasurers, introduced guests.

Samuel James Quattrone and Lindsey Marie Hern, class co-presidents, addressed attendees with a speech consisting of popular quotes.

To conclude, Quattrone and Hern said, in unison and with proper accent, “May the odds ever be in your favor.”

Francesca Galbato, student council president, and Erin Domagola, student council vice president, presented a container filled with items that represented their favorite high school memories. The memories included sayings from their favorite teachers, cookies from the cafeteria and a trophy which represented the class’ victories in Battle of the Classes, among others.

“Our memories will be cherished beyond tonight,” said Galbato. “Our personal connections with teachers, faculty and students gave us appreciation and pride for Southwestern.”

MacKenzie Weinstein, salutatorian, spoke about how surreal it felt to be graduating.

“This is a night to thank teachers, staff and family,” Weinstein said, specifically thanking her parents for their support. “Although I’m sad to leave (my parents), I’m excited for the next chapter in my life.”

She also spoke about the “lasts” her classmates had experienced but reminded everyone that new beginnings were around the corner.

Powers said that each person is full of untapped potential.

“Many are afraid to stand out, to fail,” Powers said. “But when we put aside fears … we succeed.”

Powers also thanked everyone who had helped him get to this point in his life.

Following his speech, Powers was presented The Post-Journal’s Frank Hyde Memorial Scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship given on the merits of athletics, academics, leadership and community service.

Dr. James Marra, a Southwestern graduate who currently works as an advisory engineer in the Materials Science and Technology Directorate of the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C., was the featured speaker.

Marra expressed four themes that students should live by: work hard and be persistent, be respectful, be accountable and have fun.

“Achievement is not always easy,” Marra said, noting that many of the “greats” failed for years before succeeding. “Be mindful of the knowledge of those who are more experienced than you.”

Marra told a variety of stories to supplement his themes.

“Discover something that makes you wake up every day and excites you,” he said.

After Marra’s address, diplomas were presented to the graduates.

Music throughout the ceremony was provided by the Southwestern High School concert band, under the direction of Jamie Sigler.