SARATOGA SPRINGS — As they lined up in rows and rows of chairs in a room off to the right of the stage, the soon-to-be 2019 graduates of Schuylerville High School nervously fidgeted with tassels and mortar boards, touched up lip gloss, hugged friends and said goodbyes, knowing this may be the last time they will all be assembled in one spot.
“In about five minutes we’ll be lining up,” said a teacher. “Make sure your phones are on silent.”
As part of the school’s 73rd Commencement Exercise, 134 graduating seniors marched their final steps together on Saturday morning at the City Center in Saratoga Springs.
Branching out as adults in the world — some off to college or trade school, some the military and some the workforce — the 2019 Schuylerville High School graduates are filled with dreams of becoming.
“Today marks the end of a long journey through school ... I have watched this group support each other’s differences and support each other in all endeavors,” said Principal James Ducharme, during his welcome address. “I have been fortunate over the past four years to have a front row seat to watch you get to the stage today ... you are a unique group. What makes you unique?
“I don’t know if I have the time today to go over what makes each one of you unique,” said Ducharme, recounting myriad student accomplishments and milestones surpassed. “One individual has sold enough Girl Scout Cookies to get her face on her own Girl Scout patch, with over 51,000 boxes.”
In a video made by the top 10 graduating seniors, French teacher Kelly McKinley, better known to most as Madame McKinley, was mentioned again and again by students who say they will remember her most.
“I was really overwhelmed that they mentioned me like that,” said McKinley, just before the ceremony at the City Center. “Some friends actually called me to see if I had seen the video, and when I did I was shocked.”
McKinley said because she is the only French teacher, and many students have been in her classes since ninth grade, they are close.
“This class is one of the most enthusiastic I have seen, and they really care about learning and each other,” McKinley said. “And they really love French.”
McKinley introduced Valedictorian Sarah Lamodi, who graduated with a 98.18 academic average. Lamodi earned the George Washington Book Award from George Washington University, the Northshire Open Minds Scholarship, Cengage Learning Scholarship and the University at Albany Multicultural High School Achievers Award. Lamodi was also honored at the 33rd Annual Capital Region Scholars Recognition Dinner for her academic achievement and qualities of citizenship and leadership.
“This school has been populated by many of the same families for generations,” Lamodi said. “The great thing, because we have all known each other from anywhere from one to 13 years, the goals of our classmates are well-known.”
And when Lamodi recounted examples from their days and years together, she said that there one event that truly affected the class more than anything else: The infamous SHS Parking Draft.
“The school’s construction project limited the number of parking spaces available for students and staff … only 52 students were allowed to park on campus this spring, and these students were chosen by a random drawing known as the parking draft,” Lamodi said as she recounted the details of the story. “Not many people were too keen on the idea of losing a parking spot, but I believe this event brought together a large portion of our class … the parking draft gave us ways to bond, and the draft became a joke … being able to laugh at ourselves, shows our classes personality. It’s about bonding together when things don’t go as planned.”
Salutatorian Rosemarie Zullo talked about growing up with her classmates and recounted several memories, like going over to Stewarts for ice cream, leaving it in the snow so it wouldn’t melt and sneaking tastes during theater rehearsals.
Graduating with a 97.84 academic average, Zullo’s writing was published in “The Looking Glass Art and Literary Journal,” and she was invited to take part in the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont.
When wrapping up her presentation, Zullo offered her recipe for success.
“White rice, black beans, chicken, salsa, cheese and sour cream. These are actually ingredients that go into a burrito. But I think that you will find our lives and burritos are not that different,” she said. “When building our futures, we must carefully choose and assemble the ingredients that go into our success; two scoops of good character, a little bit of determination … and a pinch of good humor. It is not always enjoyable; sometimes things fall apart and you need to make the best of a bad situation. But that can never take away from how delicious your burrito is or how fortunate you are to be on this path to your own success.”