By Rich Place
There’s no hiding that West Valley Central School is small, and this year’s graduating class of 20 students is one of the smallest classes to ever receive their diplomas from the school.
However, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a small school in a small town, according to all three student speakers who addressed their classmates during commencement on Saturday in the school’s auditorium.
Haven Ford, the class president, said that West Valley’s small school characteristic is a strength and not a weakness as some people may believe. She compared her classmates to siblings — when there are disagreements, for better or worse, a small class size essentially requires quick resolutions.
“In larger schools, you are able to bail to avoid them and go on living your life,” she said. “Here, very similar to siblings, it seems like we can’t all stay mad at each other for very long. Especially towards the end of the year, I believe we have all become a little closer and learned how to stick together.”
Salutatorian Sarah Sheffield noted that growing up in West Valley was truly a “unique” experience and that the class has grown up together as “one big, dysfunctional family.” Her speech followed a similar trend as Haven’s about family and conflict resolution.
“Like siblings, we live in such close proximity that we have no choice but to get along and love each other — whether we like it or not,” Sarah said. “We have watched each other grow up — seen the others’ successes and, sometimes, failures.”
Cody Keller, the class valedictorian, called his time at West Valley a “transforming experience” and said he has learned plenty of lessons not only from the school but the community. All three student speakers made it a point to not only touch on the school’s impact but the community’s role in their lives as well.
“The people of this fine school and fine community have taught us the most valuable of lessons — to follow your heart and your dreams,” Cody said. “While some may call West Valley small or inadequate, they do not realize it is these qualities that have made us all the strong, successful young adults you see before you.
“As we move into the great unknown, the values we were taught at West Valley — like honesty, sincerity and individualism — will help us to rise above the rest and blaze our own trails, even if we falter or fail along the way.”
The guest speaker to the class was John Janora, a former social studies teacher at the district who also served as the commencement speaker in 2015.
Roberto Alvarez, Paul Crouch, Stephanie Delano, Cheyanne Folts, Haven Ford, Ashley Frank, Matthew Grigsby, Henry Heim, Zoie Hohn, Cody Keller, Juliette Komosinski, Ashley Laudisio, Cody Luder, Julianna Noto, Lauren Olejniczak, Rena Riley, Erika Seltzer, Sarah Sheffield, Cameron Stuhler and Edward Thiel