Upper Perkiomen High School graduated 239 students on Wednesday, June 12, celebrating the commencement of the Class of 2013 -- much of which has spent the past 13 years together.
Class members walked arm-in-arm as they processed through the gym to the familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The procession was followed by a tasteful and harmonious a cappella rendition of the National Anthem by the Upper Perkiomen High School Uptones, as well as the school alma mater.
After the opening formalities, student speakers took to the stage to reminisce about their high-school years and encourage their fellow students to do a little soul-searching.
Anthony Ascoli enumerated the various qualities of the class, particularly emphasizing athletic feats. Although Ascoli lamented the lack of a senior prank and boys’ lacrosse team, he said, “I will always remember the fun I had with this class of Upper Perk.”
His advice to the Class of 2013 was to take bold action. He encouraged graduates to “be the Great White shark,” which fears nothing; embrace change as a catalyst for happiness and success; and “do everything you do with intensity - every single thing.”
In closing remarks, Ascoli - a self-proclaimed “big fan of over-sized and dramatic finales” - introduced Beyonce as a special guest for the graduation ceremony. When the superstar failed to appear, Ascoli announced that it was his senior prank, bringing uproarious laughter and applause from the audience.
James Maximuck asked his classmates to ponder the meaning of “potential.”
“The truth is, not one person cares what we could do,” Maximuck said. “We have to act.”
He added that he believes the best way for graduates to tap into their potential is to use the “support of others” - teachers, parents, friends. “Surround yourself with people that motivate you and let them help you,” he said. “And be a positive influence on others.”
He concluded, “Let’s be a class of action -- not people that can change the world, but people that do change the world.”
Jason Mercando reflected on the 13 years the class has been together, noting fashion trends, seemingly endless coursework and other memories and accomplishments of his classmates.
“In addition to our quality education ..., we received an education in life from each other,” Mercando said. “Solid, irreplaceable friendships with our peers - and yes, even our teachers and coaches - have been forged through hard work, devotion, good times and bad, and most importantly, pride for a school that we should be grateful to call our alma mater.”
He continued, “This school has taught us the elements of character that facilitate success. And now it is up to all of us to seize that opportunity and begin living our dreams.”
Finally, Senior Class President Katherine Allebach spoke to larger issues of the so-called “Me” generation, a label she called “degrading.”
“I have a strong feeling that this Upper Perkiomen class has the power to fight off egocentrism and instant gratification,” Allebach said. “We can be a group of leaders who inspires others to shift their focus from someone’s financial wealth to the wealth of their character.”
She added, “We should evaluate our character this summer,” she said, “before life moves on. ... I encourage all of you - this amazing Upper Perkiomen Class of 2013 - to meet anger with sympathy, forgive everyone before they ask, hold ourselves responsible for what we say and do, get rid of our desire for money, but not that drive for success.”
Following the student speeches, District Superintendent Elizabeth Yonson spoke briefly to the class about the four keys to success, advising students to pursue knowledge, including self-knowledge; to be extraordinary; to yearn and dream; and to be steadfast.
Principal William Shirk Jr. also highlighted the many accomplishments of the class as a whole, noting that 68 percent of the class plans to continue their education beyond high school and 16 students will be entering the military upon graduation. In addition, he said the class has collectively received scholarships and awards totaling more than $2 million.
Shirk then presented the class to Board of School Directors President William Scott, who granted official recognition of the graduates. After the graduates received their diplomas, the gym erupted in cheers, flying graduation caps and glitter as the Class of 2013 filed out of the school and into their futures.