The Class of 2016 was reminded Saturday at Swanton High School’s 120th commencement program of the importance of choice.
“I don’t have the words that will make life easier for you,” said Betty Jo Sadowski, former Swanton teacher and keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony. “You will learn throughout your years that life is not easy. But I believe that in your life you have the blessing of choice.”
She said that life is all about making choices.
“Will all your choices be the right one? Probably not. Mine weren’t. You will have failures, that is a fact,” Sadowski said. “But how you deal with them determines your chance to get on the correct pathway for you. When you have failure, don’t make excuses for it. Be honest with yourself so you can learn from it, move forward and not repeat your failure.”
The choices we make guide our lives and shape us into the people we become, she told the graduating seniors.
“Every person needs to be brave enough to make their own choices and know the consequences of those choices, be strong enough to live with those consequences, and be happy with your choices,” Sadowski said.
She started her address reminding the Class of 2016 that they were, in fact, really graduating and thanking them for bringing pride to the community.
“As sixth graders, I remember you sitting in my class and saying ‘We need to change how people look at this town. We hate it,’” said Sadowski. “Well, guess what? With your hard work, academically, musically, arts-wise, everything, athletically, you have done it. You have brought back the Bulldog pride, and I want to thank you so much for that.”
In his congratulatory message, Superintendent Jeff Schlade said it was important to also thank the parents.
“Thank you for trusting us, the teachers and staff of the Swanton Local School District, with your children – your most precious gifts,” said the superintendent. “And for the privilege of working with you and them over the past number of years.”
Following the processional of graduating seniors entering the gym, Class President Samuel Williams welcomed everyone to the commencement with a humorous speech.
Jensyn Huffman, Class of 2016 valedictorian, then took the stage, telling her fellow graduates they have a lot of responsibilities coming their way.
“It’s scary, but it’s okay to be scared. Embrace the fear. Let it motivate you,” she said.
Huffman said that what her class has accomplished will serve as an inspiration for many classes to come at Swanton High School.
She went on to thank many, including parents, teachers, custodial staff, and her friends.
“When it comes to life experience, I don’t know much more than you guys do. We’re all at the same stage of our lives,” Huffman told her fellow graduates. “But if I have learned anything, it’s this – try new things. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.”
With that in mind, Huffman tried something new. Joined by her friend Jordan Furko, she sang “I’ll Always Remember You.”
Next, as salutatorian, Furko took the stage to speak, saying the Class of 2016 will take on the world, but cannot forget the lessons learned in Swanton.
“As we enter college, or new careers, or just life on our own, we must always remember where we came from,” she said. “This town has built me. It has made me the person I am today…. This is where we came from and I will always be proud to say this is where I was raised.”
Following her speech, the Senior Chorus sang “The Climb.” And after words from Schlade and Ed Ewers, assistant superintendent at Penta Career Center, the Concert Band performed the senior song, “A River’s Fury.”
As the program began to near its end, Swanton High School Principal Jason Longbrake presented the Class of 2016 and Board of Education members presented diplomas. The Class of 2016 celebrated, then left the gym to begin a new stage of their lives.
“As you walk out these doors for the last time, remember it is your choice on the direction your life will take. Make us proud, Class of 2016, as you build your own great story,” said Sadowski.
Drew Stambaugh can be reached at 419-335-2010.