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June 25, 2022 - 9:05pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Batavia HS, notify, graduation.

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As Batavia High School’s Class of 2022 sat quietly Saturday on VanDetta field dressed in blue and white robes, many family members and friends hurriedly tried to find a seat in the packed stadium before the ceremony began.

It was perfect weather with no rain in sight, though the scorching temperature of 85 and climbing made for some hot metal seats. Marya Cole had found a spot to watch her niece Jaylene Dersham receive her diploma, but soon had to duck under cover for some relief.

“It was so hot up there,” Cole said, finding some shade in the stadium lobby. “I’m very proud of her. She lost her dad when she was young. But she went all the way through, and I’m really proud of her.”

Jaylene, 17, who was a notable Blue Devils Girls Basketball player, was one of 169 graduates to cross the makeshift stage and realize a dream along with her fellow seniors. She had decorated her cap in honor of her father, Jayson Dersham, with the word “Dad” across the top. Cole wasn’t certain what her niece will be doing from here but knows that the new graduate wants to go to college, possibly for nursing or something more secretarial.

That wasn't her proud aunt's concern at the moment.

"She did it; she made it," a smiling Cole said.

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Robert Lin, Valedictorian

Although they were saying goodbye to the last days and years of high school, the graduates were reminded of what they accomplished. Class Valedictorian Robert Lin spoke about the hardships of isolation, separation, and the mental and physical turmoil his classmates encountered with a pandemic. "It had a “devastating effect on us,” he said.

Despite the challenges, everyone rallied to come back and finish.

“Throughout these four years at high school, we’ve developed skills, connections, and characteristics to move forward in society,” Lin said. “These events will develop us to be harder, better, faster, and stronger. As today ends, we will all tread our own paths. As we move on, life will have many surprises or events in store for us.”

His nuggets of advice included the phrase “you only live once,” which he encouraged for those willing to take the consequences of trying something new. There’s nothing wrong with taking a shorter path or the long way, he said. Just never give up. Never let yourself down.

“We have to enjoy life to its fullest, and the changes it throws at us will keep us eager, and when they start coming, they don’t stop coming,” he said.

The 100+ average student received the E.G. Richmond Award for having the highest average in all courses of study. He also completed and excelled in 13 college or AP level courses, doing his homework assignments in between helping customers at his family’s restaurant after school.  A role model to his fellow students, he was described as always wanting to be better.

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Elizabeth McCarthy, Salutatorian

Less than one point under Lin's average was the 99.9 of Salutatorian Elizabeth McCarthy. Not only was McCarthy a high school graduate, but, due to her diligence in taking 11 AP and/or dual enrollment courses while in school, she also just graduated from Genesee Community College with an associate degree.

The past four years have been “a wild ride,” she said, also pointing to the challenges of COVID.

“I am so proud of how our class was able to overcome this huge challenge. We would not have been able to overcome such adversity without the help and support of our family and friends, as well as the exceptional staff at BHS,” she said. “I would like to remind everyone to be kind. I’m sure we can all think of someone who has brightened our lives in some way. Someone who was there for us with a helping hand -- or maybe simply a smile -- when we needed it most. I encourage all of us to be the light in someone’s day, in case that person needs it.”

At one point during the speeches, Samantha Koons had stepped into the lobby, where a nice small breeze was flowing through to the parking lot. She and her boyfriend Ed McDonald were there for his 18-year-old son Cory, she said.

“We’re a little emotional that his baby is growing up,” she said. “We’re very proud of him, very proud.”

About a dozen chaperones and security staff kept an eye on the premises during commencement. Some spectators asked about water as the blazing sun kept its heavy gaze on participants and the audience. Security guard and BHS 1997 grad Nick Burk attends every graduation, he said, and the events “traditionally are very well attended.”  He also coaches three sports and has become invested in the students' success, he said.

“It’s really exciting and awesome to see students whom I’ve known since they were 14 or 15 … some are going into the military, some are starting their careers,” he said. “It’s great to see that development and growth.”

Photos by Steve Ognibene.  To view more photos and to purchase photos, click here.

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Top photo: Batavia High School Principal Paul Kesler addresses the Class of 2022 during commencement Saturday at VanDetta Stadium in Batavia. Speakers included Superintendent Jason Smith, who gave an analogy about filling one's jar first with golf balls -- the big priorities in life -- before worrying about the smaller things, represented by pebbles and sand. He later gave each student an inscribed symbolic blue golf ball to remind them "about prioritizing your goals as you move into this next exciting phase of your lives." Molly George and Laura Tenebruso -- longtime teachers at the city school district -- present a poem made up by several of the seniors' quotes. Photos by Stephen Ognibene.

 

June 6, 2022 - 5:48pm
posted by Steve Ognibene in batavia notre dame, news, graduation, commencement.

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Sunday’s Notre Dame High School graduation ceremony was filled with thank-yous, encouraging quotes and acknowledgments for those who played a part in the celebratory finale.

For Salutatorian Lucia Sprague, the day was about expressing appreciation for everyone from her fellow students to faculty members.

“When writing a speech, I wanted to thank … the teachers and staff, so we could succeed and prosper to the best of our ability. Thank you for devoting your lives to the pursuit of knowledge,” she said at Resurrection Parish. “To our families, thank you for nurturing us and never giving up on us. By being here today, you are supporting the young men and women that you love and cherish. To our coaches, thank you for the hours you have put in, molding us as accomplished athletes. The lessons you have taught us on the field and in the court are some of the best lessons (we had). To my fellow seniors, you have all made it so far and be proud of yourselves.  I could not be more grateful.”

Co-valedictorians Gavin Schrader and Nathaniel Brew also were full of thanks for family members, friends and school staff. At the risk of being redundant, Brew wanted to emphasize a phrase that he figured everyone has already heard some 20,000 times.

“High school has been some of the best and worst years of my life. People tell you to grow up, but also enjoy life because it goes by so fast. I’m grateful for everything Notre Dame has done for us,” Brew said. “And for the 20,000th and first time, ND is a family. Good luck to our graduating class.”

The Class of 2022 — decked out in yellow gold and navy blue — received that final certificate of accomplishment for not just the last four years at the Batavia-based private school, but for the 13-year journey of an important educational career, Principal Wade Bianco said.

The journey doesn’t happen without the support of others, though, he said. He asked that, first the grandparents, followed by parents, and finally faculty, staff and coaches to stand up and be recognized for the pivotal roles they had within each graduate’s success story.

Families make sacrifices to send their children to Notre Dame “and help us lift them to achieve their dreams,” he said, and school employees provide leadership to get the job done.

“You don’t become rich working at Notre Dame, but you know where you do? You get rich in your heart, your mind and your soul …you get the experience of working with these kids.”

An avid reader, Bianco often likes to share positive messages that he gleans from various writers. His advice, from Henry Ford, Dr. Seuss and many others, included that, before you act or react, think; earn before you spend; wait before you criticize and try before quitting. He encouraged students to never stop questioning, whether it’s directed at college professors, politicians, or even themselves.

“My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to be: your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,” he said, continuing to borrow from motivational quotes. “Obstacles are the frightful things you see who you take your eyes off the goal. Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.”

Be open to all of the possibilities out there, he said, to anything that their futures may bring, while also celebrating today’s achievements. And, perhaps the most notable quote of all, for when pursuing challenges that seem too daunting.

“Try one more time,” he said.

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Top photo, left to right is Notre Dame Assistant Principal Mike Rapone, Salutatorian Lucia Sprague, Co-Valdictorians Nathaniel Brew, Gavin Schrader, Director of Academic Advisement & Communications Kristen Gomez, Principal Wade Bianco

To view or purchase photos, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene

June 27, 2021 - 6:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, le roy hs, video, graduation.
Video Sponsor
June 27, 2021 - 2:47pm
posted by Steve Ognibene in Batavia HS, graduation, Class of 2021, news.

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Batavia High School celebrated their 139th annual graduation commencement yesterday for the first time at the newly rebuilt Van Detta Stadium that was completed in the fall of 2019 and were welcomed by Principal Paul D. Kesler.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung by seniors Ariana deSa eFrias, Laura Lepkowski, Kathryn Fitzpatrick and Kayla Stone.

Superintendent of Schools Anibal Soler's opening remarks highlighted the challenging, ever-changing school year in which students were able to participate in sports, musicals, and many activities for seniors like prom and Summerfest. They returned to school five days a week in the last quarter of the academic year to see their friends in person or through Google Meet.

"The first senior class in our lifetimes to go the entire school year in a pandemic, take your resilience, your perseverance and your determination from this past year and go make a difference in this world," Solar said. "The sky is truly the limit. Congratulations to the Class of 2021!"

Commencement guest speaker and social studies teacher Timothy J. Stevens then gave his message to the graduates. He has three words for the Class of 2021 -- perseverance, resiliency and grit.

Focusing on grit, Stevens emphasized how this senior class showed up the beginning of the school year in person or through remote learning. They refused to accept that school sports might be cancelled along with other activities, and continued to sharpen their skills academically, staying committed inside and outside school.

"That's the lesson in grit that you learned and modeled for all of us this past year," Stevens said, as he shared his personal story and challenged the Class of 2021 to continue to have daily gratitude and show grit going forward and in years to come.

Valedictorian Kameron N. Kuszlyk (co-mayor) who participated in many student body government clubs, addressed the Class of 2021 by noting takeaways from the last four years of challenges and hindrances.

"The last year and a half -- we would not let it defeat us and perseverance would prevail and lessons (would be) learned," Kameron said. "As a community of students in a pandemic we found new ways to deal with the new school system, connecting and supporting each other through to the end. I see leaders, adventurers and friends who are willing to push themselves to achieve greatness.

"Thank you to all parents, administrators, teachers and coaches who devoted their time to our development as scholars, athletes, artists and musicians."

Salutatorian and Mr. Batavia 2021 Faraz Idrees, spoke to the senior class about being a student from eighth grade to their senior year and how many challenges and obstacles were overturned. He highlighted activities that the class was able to participate in, traditions toward the last few months of school before graduating.

"We all started off at different locations with a different means of reaching our final destination," Faraz said. "Some may have had more bumps and bruises along the way but in the end, we were able to reach the same destination."

To view the complete photo album, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene Photography.

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Principal Paul D. Kesler

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Singers Ariana deSa eFrias, Laura Lepkowski

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Singers Kathryn Fitzpatrick, Kayla Stone

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Superintendent of Schools Anibal Soler 

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Commencement Guest Speaker Timothy J. Stevens

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Valedictorian Kameron N. Kuszlyk (co-mayor)

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Salutatorian and Mr. Batavia 2021, Faraz Idrees

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June 28, 2020 - 2:16pm
posted by Steve Ognibene in Batavia HS, graduation, news, Class of 2020, COVID-19.

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(Pictured above are slats of wood engraved by BHS teacher Bob Mullen from the gym floor that is being replaced currently. Each graduate received one today.)

A ceremony at Daniel A. Van Detta Stadium was originally planned for the Batavia High School Class of  2020, but with many changes to the governor’s weekly COVID-19 update, that plan was changed.

Today's outdoor ceremony was divvied up into six separate mini graduations with each senior joined by a couple of family members.

Opening remarks were made by Student Council co-mayors Lydia Wahr and Macayla Burke, and by English teacher Kimberly Przybysz, who was chosen by the National Honor Society to give the commencement speech.

The co-mayors presented Principal Paul Kesler with the Dundee Award (in a nod to the TV show "The Office") on behalf of the Class of 2020 in honor of being a supportive principal who succeeded at keeping the rite of graduation close to home.

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Above, Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr.

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(Photo above: BHS Principal Paul Kesler)

Immediately following the seniors' event were half hour graduating sessions with social distancing for the Class of 2020 near the historic big tree in front of BHS.

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. addressed the graduates but especially parents who wore many different hats after the pandemic shutdown in mid-March: principal, teacher, counselor, social worker.

“Take this setback as an opportunity to make a comeback and make the Class of 2020 historic," Soler said. "Be grateful with the time you spent time with family the last 100-plus days, because at the end of the day that is what truly matters because, to the right and left of you, they got you to the finish line. We are Batavia.”

Principal Kesler told the crowd that nobody has experienced anything like this -- coronavirus -- in their lifetime and he expressed gratitude for his staff and students who had to battle adversity to learn online.

These teens, Kesler noted, although disappointed about missing traditional senior events, were grateful for all their blessings -- the support of friends, school staff, family and life in a free country.

This unique group is "part of a thoughtful generation that loves and values people even more than generations that came before us,"Kesler said. "Above all, you will show love and appreciation for all of those that come across your path, I will truly miss you and am very proud of you, Class of 2020.

Prerecorded speeches were given by the Valedictorian and Salutatorian for five out of six scheduled ceremonies but then both were made in person at their scheduled times.

Valedictorian Andrew Lin maintained a 101.497 cumulative grade-point average throughout high school; plus he achieved a perfect score on the ACT assessment, which has not been done in 15-plus years. A three-sport varsity athlete, Andrew served four years in student government, was active in his community, and will attend MIT this fall to study Computer Engineering. 

Andrew spoke about the Class of 2020 high school years from freshman to high school, and the changes and obstacles members will remember, forged by adversity and resilience.

"In a few short months we will be spread out all over the country, blazing our own futures, continuing to change the realm just like we did in high school -- making friends, taking new interests, expecting challenge and meeting new people," Andrew said. "I leave you with this quote, 'Don’t forget where you came from but always remember where you're going.'

"Batavia High School is our home. We are all behind you; supporting you as your future awaits you."

Salutatorian Lydia Geiger graduates with two honors -- the prestigious elite honors program at The Hochstein School of Music, and with today's advanced regents diploma at Batavia High School with a 101.021 grade-point average.

Lydia has volunteered many hours in the community. She has also participated in every musical program during all four years at BHS. She will further her education at The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam this fall.

Lydia talked about how the class was born to be resilient in the wake of 9/11 and is now graduating in the midst of a global pandemic.

"We look to have the faith when we look through the window even when we see the broken glass," she said. "As time goes on, we fall into living in patterns, going through the motions in the dark, and when the light comes on we don’t always have the perspective of what should be. But who defines what should be?

"The vision of life events that should be, that we create in our minds is not reality. With every passing moment we are putting together the puzzle pieces and this journey we call life. As more of this picture has become evident, we have realized that they’re was a greater purpose."

To view or purchase photos, click here.

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Valedictorian Andrew Lin

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Salutatorian Lydia Geiger

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May 20, 2018 - 9:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, graduation, news, notify.

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More than 900 Genesee Community College students have completed their degrees in the past 12 months and today about 225 of them accepted their diplomas in a commencement service that also marked the yearlong celebration of GCC's 50th anniversary.

Kristina M. Johnson, Ed.D., chancellor, State University of New York, gave the commencement address. She focused on a theme of commitments -- commitment to be optimistic and persistent, commitment to being kind, commitment to community and charity, and a commitment to a sustainable environment.

Johnson started off with the story of her mother, whose father died when she was 9. Her mother's mother died in the middle of the Great Depression; Johnson's mother was in high school when this happened, and she was left to raise her two younger brothers alone. Eventually, she married and raised seven children. At age 60, Johnson's mother was finally able to return to school.

"If not for a community college she would have been able to pursue her passion to further her education," Johnson said. "Many of you are like my mom. You had to juggle lives, careers, family and all of the other responsibilities that go along with being contributing members of our very busy society, so today we’re here to celebrate you."

Johnson then told the story of one of her own young-life struggles. At age 22, while training for an attempt to make the U.S. Olympic team, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which in 1979 was rarely curable.

"Imagine at 22 staring down a life of not surviving past 24," Johnson said.

When she started treatment, she went into a clinic for the first time and met two sisters, probably in their 60s. They had survived together in a Japanese internment camp and they were tough.

Johnson sat down and one of them said to her, "Is this your first time?"

Johnson wanted to know how she knew and the woman said, "because you look scared."

"I was crushed because truly I was scared," Johnson said. "I didn't know what to expect. I didn’t know if it would hurt. I didn’t know if I would be able to compete in my sport. I didn’t know if the treatments would work."

Weeks went by with Johnson continuing treatment and by now she was a veteran, having settled into the routine. One afternoon, in the waiting room, again with the two sisters, another woman came in and sat down. Johnson asked her if she was new.

"Yes, how did you know?" the woman replied.

"I looked up at the two sisters and I winked," Johnson said. “'Well,' I said, 'you weren’t here yesterday and we’re all here at the same time every day so it has to be your first time.' I then proceeded to walk her through what was going to happen next.

"I could see the fear I had felt and I said to her, ‘think of something nice.’ She got up, she walked out of the waiting room, and before she walked in (to the next room), she turned around and looked at me and she said -- "

At this point, Johnson stopped. With hundreds and hundreds of people in the Call Arena, there wasn't a whisper, a ruffle of paper, a snap of a shutter or the squeak of a chair. Silence as far as the ear could hear.

Johnson composed herself, "She said, 'I'm going to think of you.'"

Johnson said she can never tell the story without becoming emotional.

That became one of the greatest memories of my life because on that day I chose to be kind," Johnson said. "There didn’t seem to be any other choice but to be kind without expecting anything in return."

From these lessons, Johnson encouraged the students to commit to optimism and to be persistent no matter what they encounter in life.

"I remain a committed, if not obnoxious, optimist," she said.

She also told students to commit to kindness but to also accept themselves without judgment.

"While you’re busy practicing kindness toward others, I want you to do one other thing," she said. "I want you to be kind to yourself."

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Charlie Cook, CEO of Liberty Pumps, was honored by the Alumni Association for his charitble support of the college.

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To purchase prints, click here.

June 26, 2017 - 11:14am

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A graduating class of 170 students received their diplomas from Batavia High School yesterday in a ceremony held at Genesee Community College.

Superintendent Chris Dailey said 72 percent of the class is pursuing higher education, including 46 going directly to four-year colleges, 11 will attend a post-secondary school, 75 will go to a community college and 21 students are entering the workforce already with jobs, plus 11 students are going into the military.

Of the 170 graduates, 159 are receiving regent’s diplomas, 39 of them with various advanced honors.

To view and purchase photos click here: http://steveognibenephotography.zenfolio.com/p681207694

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Principal Scott Wilson opening the ceremony.

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Batavia High School Spanish teacher Jennifer Korpanty delivers the keynote speech.

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Valedictorian Campbell Anderson

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Salutatorian Maggie Cecere

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Batavia City School District Superintendent​ Christopher Dailey #takecareofbcsd

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Batavia Board President Patrick Burk

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Sam Bartz receiving his diploma from Batavia City School District Superintendent​ Christopher Dailey.

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Batavia Board of Education Member Peter Cecere giving his daughter Salutatorian Maggie Cecere her diploma.

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April 25, 2008 - 2:52pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, history, graduation, The Batavian.

It's June 22, 1895. The front page of The Batavian — a newspaper of the times — tells the simple story of a high school graduation, titled: "Sweet Girl Graduates."

"Radiant as the rosy morn was the graduating maiden of the Batavia Academy Thursday night. In ravishing costume and with brightened eye and blooming cheek she stepped on the rostrum of the opera house and with all the glamour that surrounds the pomp and panoply of war pulsing in her heart she gazed into the proud eyes of parents and friends and an immense concourse of people, and in the midst of showers of beautiful flowers was thrown into a dreamy ecstasy of delight."

It's no surprise the author has eyes only for such maidens. Batavia Academy's graduating class in 1895 consisted of 13 girls and a meager four boys. Where were all the young Batavian men at the turn of the century? Were they too good — or no good — for study? Ravaged by war? Bound by the ox to the farm?

No matter. This article's author had no need for them. Full of that very same poetic excess, he describes a few of the young ladies who especially caught his eye. Such as:

"Miss Flora Van de Venter is a piquant, fair-haired girl, with expressive eyes and a complexion that suggests peaches and cream. Her essay was captioned 'Fun and Philosophy of Mother Goose,' but there was nothing frivolous about it, though nicely spiced with humor."

And let us not forget "Miss Florence Quirk, a tangle-tressed maiden in white, (who) gave a learned essay, which evinced deep research."

Or in an article on the same front page (under "Town Topics: Seen and Heard in the Daily Current of Batavia Life").

"The summer girl is with us again. Arrayed in delicate tissue gown and jaunty straw hat, she rides through the streets in all her glory these pleasant evenings. With fan or parasol in hand she graces the piazza or the streets as she makes her periodical visits to the soda fountain. What would the druggist do without the summer girl? But it befits us all to be duly and honestly grateful for the blessing. For the summer girl is a blessing."

It must have been a long, lonely winter.

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