CAMBRIDGE -- As if by some preordained, perfectly-timed act of nature, the sun began setting on the school building behind the 101 graduates who bid farewell to their high school years and looked to a bright future, on a picturesque Friday night in Cambridge.
"This is not the end," Salutatorian Brittany O'Brien, 18, told the several hundred family members and friends who gathered on the lawn outside the school to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2010.
"Now is the time to accelerate into the future," she said.
High School Principal Christopher Signor recited Robert Frost's poem "The Tuft of Flowers," and encouraged the graduating class to be inspired by what the future presents them.
"Seek the beauty shown by change and embrace that change," he said.
Valedictorian Mattisan Rowan has spent her entire life in Cambridge. With a self-professed "knack for language," she will be headed off to Villanova University in the fall, where she said she will be studying the Arabic language and political science.
The 17-year-old lifetime resident of Cambridge, who has traveled to the distant lands of Spain and Italy, and Germany to Belize, said her hometown will always remain a special place to her.
"I've traveled to a lot of places, but no matter where you go, you will never find a place as unique or as supportive as Cambridge," Rowan said.
O'Brien, who will be attending classes at Adirondack Community College in the fall, said she took a few moments earlier in the day to reflect on her school life in Cambridge.
It was a memory-filled journey that all began in Mrs. Thompson's kindergarten class. There was a little fortress area in that classroom, she recalled, that was surrounded by books.
"That was the memory that popped in my brain. That little castle where the books were and how I always thought of that as my little castle," she said, shortly before receiving the diploma that will send her into the future.
Guest speaker Teri Ptacek, executive director of the Agricultural Stewardship Association, informed the students - many who will be relocating to universities out of the area - no matter where they go in their adult lives, they will always have a piece of their hometown to carry along with them.
"You may want to escape this little town, but trust me, this little town will never escape you," she said.
"We are all counting on you Class of 2010," Ptacek said. "Do good in this world."