Graduations are full of proud parents. So what happens when one of them is given a microphone, a podium and two minutes to talk about their kid?
If you’re Sarah Cioffi, you make sure to hit the trifecta. First, embarrass them. Second, cry. Third, brag without sounding like you’re bragging.
“Fun fact No. 1 about Sophie: If you’ve ever heard me cheering Sophie on at a soccer game or an indoor or outdoor track meet, you know that at home we don’t actually call her Sophie,” she began. “Thanks to her little sister Lucy, we call her Dee Dee.
“You see how I just did that? I just boasted about Sophie being an accomplished three-season student-athlete with four years of high-school soccer, five seasons of varsity indoor track and six seasons of varsity outdoor track, but I disguised it with a fun fact. You probably hardly even noticed I was bragging.”
Cioffi went well beyond the two minutes the school had given her to introduce her daughter with a half-dozen more fun facts-disguised brags. By the time Sophie Constantino took the stage to deliver a commencement address to her peers at Scotia-Glenville High School, she could only respond with a “wow” and a hug.
The morning graduation ceremony at Proctors was one of dozens held throughout the Capital Region on Saturday. Other area high schools to hold graduation ceremonies included Amsterdam, Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Broadalbin-Perth, Canajoharie, Cohoes, Cobleskill-Richmondville, Corinth, Fonda-Fultonville, Fort Plain, Galway, Gloversville, Johnstown, Mayfield, Mechanicville, Mohonasen, Schoharie, Schuylerville, Shaker, Sharon Springs and Waterford-Halfmoon.
Constantino smartly conveyed what her high-school experience was like in just a few sentences. Her days were filled with a French teacher reminding her to clean her room later, or running into the mayor as he helped students fix a lawn mower engine, or her coach making sure she got her college materials into her office on time.
That’s because in the small town where she grew up, Constantino’s French teacher was her mom, the village mayor was the school technology teacher and her coach was her guidance counselor.
“When the late Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of Great Britain, she said ‘It’s passionately interesting for me that the things I learn in a small town in a very modest home are just the things that I believe have won the election,’ ” quoted Constantino. “Margaret Thatcher’s upbringing made her what she was, just as Scotia-Glenville makes us what we are.”
She knew of a few small-town moments her classmates would never forget. Like when the school’s star football player died suddenly and someone decided to spray paint his name and jersey number on the overpass by Frank and Sons Body Works — the village Department of Public Works always made sure to repaint around the graffiti memorial each year, leaving the name untouched.
Or in 2011, when the Mohawk River spilled over into Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In and the baseball fields in Collins Park and submerged the hill behind the library where the students liked to sled. Constantino and her peers marched out in boots and with buckets to shovel mud and clean up their hometown.
“Where we come from, we look out for each other,” she said.
Wherever the graduates decide to embark on their next journeys, Constantino hoped they would share stories of Jackburgers and Squirrel Day and the local fire department delivering cider and donuts around the village on Halloween.
“These things will be more than just memories to us,” she said. “They’ll represent our profound sense of community, goodwill and tradition. They are pieces of who we are as Tartans, and Tartans we will always be.”
For the most part, the ceremony proceeded Saturday like any other might: The Senior Choralaires sang a few songs, and a dozen or so seniors were recognized for their academic achievement with departmental medals. But as Board of Education President Pamela Carbone took the podium to deliver remarks, a member of the audience fell in the aisle and required medical assistance, causing a momentary panic before ushers and school administrators calmed everyone.
Albany and St. Johnsville high schools will round out graduation weekend in the Capital Region with ceremonies today.