Niskayuna High School seniors, swishing in silver and scarlet gowns and matching caps, greeted their graduation with all the energy and bravery of good warriors.
“There’s a real sense of pride in their school and class,” Principal John Rickert said of the 438 graduates.
That pride was evident in the way students spoke of their soon-to-be alma mater.
“Niskayuna prepares you for the real world,” said Mike D’Amario, who will play lacrosse for the University of Virginia in the fall. “They trust us to be good people and good students.”
Fallon Jung, 2014 class president, said the lessons she had learned about responsibility would serve her well at Columbia University, where she will study medicine and literature in society.
Her commencement address, which centered on Dr. Seuss’ classic, “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” reminded her fellow graduates that through good days and bad, if they worked hard, they could do anything.
New Alumni Hall of Fame inductee Andre N. Davis, of the class of 1997, echoed Jung’s sentiments about the value of hard work. Davis, who played on four different NFL teams, was the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week in 2002 and was the first Niskayuna High School graduate to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. He has since moved on to focus on family and philanthropy.
The honoree now dedicates much of his time and money to building health care infrastructure and schools in Rwanda.
“Be prepared for trials, because the world will throw many things your way,” Davis said. “That way you can turn your success into significance.”
Before striding across the Proctors stage, the students presented a new scorer’s table as their class gift, as well as financial gifts to each of the four upcoming classes.
Despite the forward-facing tone of the milestone event, students sought to focus on the present and enjoy the celebration with their friends and families.
“I’m trying to stay in the moment,” Jung said. She hoped her classmates would try “not to be stuck in the past, and to be ready for the future no matter what.”
“Carpe Diem,” she said, noting that she had been especially fond of her Latin studies at Niskayuna.
Zack Loiselle said friends and family had snapped countless pictures, but that he was taking the ceremony one moment at a time. His parents, of course, felt a bit differently.
“My dad is never going to see me as a little kid again,” he said.
Harim Minhas savored a moment of calm and congratulation before the hard work of college kicks in.
“It’s almost surreal,” she said. “I think I’m going to miss it.”
Minhas, who will study psychology at Siena in the fall, took a mental warrior stance as she faced the future in her bright red gown.
“Now I have to pay for college,” she said. “This was nothing.”