As soon as the students got to their seats, they turned and looked. In the seats behind and above them, they saw smiling parents and grandparents looking back.
“There she is right there,” said one parent, pointing from the balcony at Proctors. The students, now graduates, waved and smiled, resplendent in their black and white caps and gowns.
It was Mohonasen’s turn at Proctors on Saturday afternoon — one of the last in a long line of commencement ceremonies, each of its own design, tradition and character. And like the thousands of graduates and parents that came before them in this week of high school graduations, the families recalled years of struggle and work with a simple glance.
“These are the people that have guided you, supported you and are very proud that you are where you are today,” said Mohonasen High School Principal Lisa Patierne.
The Class of 2016 commencement season came to an end Saturday, with about 20 ceremonies across the Capital Region, from Fort Plain to Albany and Guilderland to Gloversville, that capped four days of quotes, beach balls and smiling parents.
In Amsterdam, 230 graduates helped see off Superintendent Tom Perillo who, after nearly 40 years working in the district, retires in a few days. “I only have five days left on the job, but who’s counting?” he noted.
Perillo grew up in Amsterdam and graduated from Amsterdam High School, where he met his wife. As he addressed the students he said he had struggled to come up with a speech that went beyond the norm — “There’s nothing worse than a recycled graduation speech,” he told the students. Yes, reach for the stars. Yes, establish roots and never forget your Amsterdam heritage, he urged the graduates. Yes, you are well prepared for the future.
But as Perillo stood in front of the class of students that started fourth grade the year he was named superintendent, he told them to most of all never forget the people who have supported them.
“I certainly have no complaints, and I certainly have no regrets,” Perillo said. “But instead what I have today is gratitude ... don’t be bashful to show gratitude to others and don’t forget we stand on the shoulders of others.”
As Perillo said goodbye and closed a chapter on his career, the graduates across the region looked forward with optimism hard to top. Mohonasen graduate Kunika Chahal beamed as she took center stage for the school’s keynote speech. She grabbed a selfie with her classmates in the background before launching into cheerful recollections of 13 years in Mohonasen schools.
“We raised the bar for the standard at Mohonasen, because we never gave up, and we believed not only in ourselves but in each other,” Chahal said. “The Class of 2016 is coming, and we are hitting the ground running.”
Chahal even offered a warning of sorts for people not in the Class of 2016. The problems yet to be solved, the inventions yet to be made, the discoveries yet to be found: they all risk falling at the hands of 2016 graduates.
“The world better watch out, because we are coming to take it over,” she said.
Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.