Mohonasen graduates savor big day

Three students offer uplifting advice
Mohonasen High School graduate Catherine Alesio fixes her mortar board at the 60th Commencement at Proctors Theatre Saturday.
Mohonasen High School graduate Catherine Alesio fixes her mortar board at the 60th Commencement at Proctors Theatre Saturday.

In a trio of speeches, Mohonasen graduates assured their classmates they were ready to set out on life after high school, pointing to their long journeys to graduation as evidence.

“The world after high school may seem daunting to many, but we are fully equipped to transform our lives into what we want them to be,” graduation speaker Anna Sherman told her classmates.

Sherman urged her fellow graduates – about 200 of them – to find their passions in life and to pursue them with compassion toward others. The marriage of passion and compassion, she said, is what makes a true difference in the world.

Sherman rhetorically asked her classmates how the athletes and musicians and best students in their graduation class were able to be as successful at those things as they were. Because they found their passion, she said.

And then she reminded them about that time in elementary school when they learned to share with others — “even if we desperately wanted to keep all the Legos to ourselves” — and saw the happiness that sharing could bring to others. That was a lesson in compassion – like the athletes who work together as a team or the theater guild that comes together for a play or the scholars who tutor other student, she said.

“Compassion is what takes that raw passion and transforms it into something great,” Sherman said. “Compassion elevates passion and it allows us to make a mark on the world… The world could use lots more compassionate people with great passion.”

The journey after graduation won’t always be easy, graduate Sophie Mathis said in her commencement speech. But she said she and her fellow graduates will rise to the occasion, just as they have done throughout high school and the primary grades before.

“We will have hardships ahead, that is a promise,” Mathis said. “But here is the secret: we are bigger than anything against us.”

Mathis, one of three student speakers selected through an annual competition at Mohonasen High School, asked the other graduates to imagine all of the things they will do in life: the adventures and travels, the work, the writing, the leading, the building.

But she also asked them to remember those moments of feeling powerless, those moments when they couldn’t imagine making it to graduation. They’ve been in that place and overcome it, they will be in a similar place in the future, and they will again overcome it, she said.

“As the years pass, do not forget to surprise yourself with what you are capable of,” Mathis said.

In closing, after the graduates had crossed the stage at Proctors, been handed their diplomas and moved their tassels from one side to the other, graduate Raven Gonzalez continued the “pick yourself up motif.”

She outlined the life story of a man she had met while volunteering at a soup kitchen in Philadelphia. The man became an alcoholic, losing his family and home along the way. The man, she said, eventually turned his life around, spending time at the library and providing tours of the city to volunteers at the soup kitchen, eventually getting accepted into supportive housing.

Life isn’t defined by the moments you fall down, she said of her story, it’s defined by the getting back up.

“Life after this point isn’t always going to be easy. In fact, it’s meant to be hard: that’s how you learn and grow,” she said. “Life is going to get you down, but there’s always a way to get back up.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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