Seniors at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School caught a glimpse into what their future could hold when they were addressed by one of their own at the school’s commencement ceremony on Saturday.
Erin Wasserman, a 2005 graduate who earned her doctorate in epidemiology and is now the director of the NCAA’s injury prevention program, gave the keynote address to the 105 graduates.
“Depending on who you ask, it was just or already 12 years ago that I was standing on this stage, giving a commencement speech,” said Wasserman. “Incredibly, most of you were finishing kindergarten, which makes me feel old, I think.”
Wasserman told the story of how she pestered her way into the sports injury field by simply emailing an industry expert she admired and maintaining a line of communication with him. She encouraged the students to “put yourself out there, introduce yourself to people, and tell your story.”
Her message was that by simply showing up and reaching out to people in your sphere, or even to someone outside of it that you want to bring in, you have the potential to create opportunities that would not otherwise have existed.
“One thing I’ve realized is that you never know where life is going to lead you,” said Wasserman, who graduated from the University at Rochester and now lives in Indianapolis, Ind. “[10 years ago] I didn’t even know that epidemiology existed, let alone that you could do research on sports injuries and how to prevent them.”
An entry level public health course led her to encounter epidemiology, and later an article about body checking in Canadian youth hockey honed her focus on sports injuries. Wasserman told the students that even if they’re dead set on what they want to do, “still reach out and talk to everyone, you never know where it might lead you.”
Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District Superintendent Carl Mummenthey said in preparing his remarks he looked to famous works of poetry and literature, but in the end found the wisdom he wanted to impart on his daughter’s fortune cookie while out on a family meal.
“A rolling stone gathers no moss, but it obtains a certain polish,” said Mummenthey, reading from the fortune cookie. “My wish for each of you is that you would pursue bold, ambitious plans, that you’ll be in motion and stay in motion.”
He added that there will be bumps and jolts along the way, “but as this fortune cookie reminds us, those bumps that provide polish over time and make us all better.”
Mummenthey said he and his colleagues spend much of their time analyzing how their work and policies impact the students, but that today he wanted to focus on how much the seniors have impacted the school community.
“During your time [here], you’ve taught us many valuable lessons,” said Mummenthey, who mentioned the seniors’ high aspirational goals and their devotion to serving the community. “During your journey you’ve left us better than you found us, and for that we’re all very grateful.”
Class of 2017 valedictorian Emma Rys encouraged the students to be themselves in their journey ahead, and added that she couldn’t have asked for a better group of people with which to grow up and learn.
“Generally the part of graduation that I am most afraid of, but also the most excited for, is the chance that we get to reinvent, or at least fully express who we are,” said Rys. “When you’re moving on to new places, with new people and experiences, to make new memories and friends, we get a chance to start over — to be someone new if we choose... We should use this opportunity to be ourselves. To do what we want to do and be who we want to be, even if it seems farfetched or frightening.”