For one of the 451 Saratoga Springs High School students receiving diplomas, Thursday’s ceremony wasn’t her first graduation.
Last summer, Liana Sinnott, now 18, graduated from Army basic training.
After that, passing Regents exams and writing papers was relatively easy.
She got her parents’ consent to go to boot camp at age 17 because she thought it would be — kid you not — a fun way to spend the summer.
“I thought it would be a great adventure, I’m not going to lie,” she said.
It wasn’t quite what she’d expected.
“I wouldn’t say it was fun,” she said. “It was a challenge. I definitely felt like a different person afterward.”
In a few years, after attending college in the ROTC program, she’s hoping that decision will take her around the world.
“Traveling a lot, and getting maybe stationed in some interesting places,” she said.
The class of 2015 had all sorts of visions for their ideal life, as they waited eagerly for their diplomas at SPAC on Thursday.
Matthew Petkus, 18, is hoping to save a life.
He’s going to become a paramedic and work for Wilton EMS, he said.
As a volunteer, he has twice tried to save someone who was in cardiac arrest. He’s watched paramedics do CPR. He’s rushed over with the defibrillator.
“We tried to do everything we could to get him back,” he said of one patient.
The man didn’t make it, but Petkus will keep trying.
Matthew Cooper, 18, is just hoping to buy a great car.
He plans to get a job in auto body work, which he trained for during high school through a BOCES program. He’s hoping to earn enough money to buy a car and move into his own residence, in that order.
What will life look like then?
“I’m not sure yet. It’s going to be different,” he said.
He wasn’t the only one looking ahead with uncertainty, unsure what would constitute a good life.
“I don’t know that yet. I want to figure that out,” said Anisa El Sawi, 18.
She plans to major in risk management and cyber security in college, because she figured it’s a growing field.
“Because I want to get a job when I graduate,” she said. “When you get settled in a job, that’s when you can start building yourself.”
Parents were torn between celebrating their children’s accomplishments and coming to grips with the fact that their babies were growing up.
Christine Klass’ first child was among the graduates, and 16 family members came to cheer.
Klaus was tearing up before the ceremony even started.
“Just seeing her in the gown and the light hit it and oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening,” Klass said.
For Karen Forsythe, it was the last high school graduation she’ll attend as a mother.
Rebekah Forsythe, 18, is her youngest.
“She’s the fifth. She’s my baby,” Karen Forsythe said. “It’s kind of sad. But we say, we did something right. We got them all through.”
Students offered a range of advice during the ceremony.
Class President Davawn Hartz told the students to remember him as “the guy who smiled at you in high school.”
Salutatorian Theresa Starnes recalled two lessons school officials might have wished the students didn’t learn.
“We’ve learned to circumvent the attendance policy,” she said. “We’ve learned to walk purposefully down the hallway when we did not have a hall pass.”
Valedictorian Erinn Mangona told her classmates to make great memories before their next graduation, when they will again reflect on their accomplishments.
“Four years from now . . . make sure it’s something worth remembering,” she said.
Principal Brett Miller praised the class for its combined 5,000 hours of community service and urged students to follow the lead of Brenda Adams, a coach and physical education teacher in the district.
“She just made everyone’s life sunnier,” Miller said, describing how Adams would make each person feel special.
He directed the class to do the same.
“Make the world a bit sunnier,” he said.
Students and community members have been donating to a fund to create a scholarship in her name since her death of cancer in January.