Amsterdam High School held its 209th commencement ceremony on Saturday, graduating nearly 250 seniors that make up the class of 2017.
Greater Amsterdam School District Superintendent Vicky Ramos, who was appointed 13 months ago, said the students have made the district proud.
“Having just arrived a year ago to Amsterdam, I can only comment to what I’ve come to learn about the class of 2017: I’ve come to learn that you, the class of 2017, is a truly caring class,” said Ramos.
She went on to say she’s seen evidence of the class’ caring spirit on her walks through the high school’s hallways, and their enthusiasm at school sporting events and outings.
“I have seen you to be respectful and supportive of each other, even when the opposing team was not,” said Ramos. “You have cared for those less fortunate, you have helped your teachers when you know they’ve needed it.”
Ramos challenged the students to never let go of the caring spirit they exhibited while in high school as they continue on with their lives.
“The value of care for others is what makes great leaders stand out,” she said.
Class of 2017 valedictorian Jessica Gardinier used her remarks to thank the district’s faculty and staff for their guidance throughout the years, naming several by name. She also thanked her family, quipping that she was especially grateful to be allowed to learn from her older sister’s mistakes.
Turning to her classmates, Gardinier said she remembers sharing in the nervousness of being a freshman, and bit by bit gaining confidence with her peers throughout her high school career.
“We have differing backgrounds and childhoods, but most of us have been together for the past four years,” she said. “But now we’re here, four years faded, as if they were just an illusion manipulated by our memory or imagination.”
Gardinier said it’s finally time for the class to pursue their dreams and passions, and encouraged her peers to overcome any future obstacles in their lives and careers while maintaining a generous spirit.
“Despite the mistakes that we will make, remember that many of our social and political leaders began their lives as average young adults like you and me, and now we can become the hero, even if our feats are left unsung,” she said.
Gardinier added that the class of 2017 won’t be remembered by their grades, popularity or what they did on social media, “but by relationships, the kind of person you were. That is the legacy, leaving the people whom you have crossed paths with with a little more happiness or faith.”
Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort, a 1999 graduate of Amsterdam High School, told a story of perseverance from his days on the varsity football team. In his junior year the Rams had made it to the championship game but lost a heartbreaker against Queensbury.
The next year they found themselves in the same position - facing Queensbury in the championship game - which went into double overtime.
The Rams scored a touchdown and had to make a critical decision: kick for the extra point and send the game into another overtime, or go for a 2-point conversion and win the game.
The opted to go for the glory.
“We did not win the game,” said Ossenfort, to chuckles from the crowd. “And it was one of the most devastating, hard moments I’ve ever been through, and I thought the world was coming to an end.”
But, he added, he learned that day that life “isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.”
“I learned that sometimes you can give everything to a cause and it might not work out how you hoped,” he said. “But I learned that that’s OK. And that’s actually a part of life. There will be ups, there will be downs, but the important part is that you pick yourself back up, and you keep moving forward.”
He encouraged the students to persevere through their own trials and tribulations, and to remember from where they came.
“Go out and explore, take some risks, and live your life,” said Ossenfort. “And lastly, after you do that, don’t be reluctant to return and become a positive contributor to your hometown. Giving back to your community, that has done so much for you, just might be one of the most rewarding things in your life. I know, because it has been for me.”