TUPPER LAKE — At Tupper Lake High School on Thursday, seniors sang, laughed, cried and shared memories of their time growing up together.
The ceremony was punctuated with many musical references and performances, and many stories of weird things happening in high school.
TLCSD Superintendent Russ Bartlett said the class of 45 students was one of the most memorable he had. He described greeting them in the morning in a senior class light roast. Some weren’t morning people, some had weird shoes every day, others were constantly late, but he said he loved them all and was proud of their accomplishments.
Senior Emileigh Smith said they all overcame hurdles to get there. The coronavirus pandemic took up much of their high school time, but when sports and extracurricular activities returned this year, she said Tupper Lake students immediately got back into the swing of things.
The red and black players returned to the stage with “The beauty and the Beast.” Senior volleyball players took their team to sections, men’s varsity basketball reached the Section X semifinals, the track and field team went to sections, and a senior went to the States twice United, and the baseball team became Division X champions.
Valedictorian Emma Robillard has found advice for classmates across the city — her teachers, family and friends.
She said to take care of others like Laurie Mitchell, her favorite teacher; reuniting with friends like Ava Cuttaia, who graduated two years ago; love her family like her “Noni and Dad” like the; being loud like her little sister and roommate Lyla; at “laugh like Lukie,” his younger brother; have faith like his mother in difficult times; and work hard and have a sense of humor, like his father “Marky.”
Salutatorian Libby Gillis began her speech with a shoutout to her grandmother, who was celebrating her 90th birthday that day.
Gillis said she remembered being told in primary school that she would be graduating in 2022 – it seemed incredibly far away then. She thought it would be a year of robots and self-driving cars, not a global pandemic.
“I was originally going to say you guys in the crowd should be glad you’re not listening to me on your car radios right now, but now that we’re in the gym sweating, I’m going to let it go. that to the interpretation”, Gillis said to laughs and groans from the sweaty crowd in the gym.
Of course, no modern Tupper Lake degree would be complete without a hint of the “the ranch era”. But this year, Gillis also presented the “yo-yo situation.”
“We had the whole yo-yo situation,” she says. “Then we didn’t have the whole yo-you situation.”
Gillis compiled a video with advice from the leaders students admired every day at school – teachers, staff and administrators.
“Leave every object and every person you meet better than you found them” said a teacher.
Another teacher wryly urged students to get every credit card possible at college to get free t-shirts and cut laundry costs.
Some of the tips were fun – one told students to wake up every day to the energy of Aiden Dattoma, who was very energetic.
Bartlett closed the video by quoting some sage advice he picked up from the recent viral song on TikTok – “Jiggle Jiggle” by BBC documentary maker Louis Theroux.
“My money don’t shake, don’t shake, it bends,” Bartlett said on screen, to graduates’ screams and laughter.
He pointed out that most of this year’s graduates were born in 2004. That’s the same year Mountain Dew Baja Blast came out, the Nintendo DS and iPod Mini were on the shelves and the social media monolith. “Facebook” became active for the first time.
Now, he says, this era of high school graduates doesn’t even use Facebook.
Seniors Lowden Pratt, Emileigh Smith, Morgan Dewyea, Hailey Bissonette, Trista Strader-Moore, Jenna Switzer and Aiden Dattoma performed the class song, “I lived” by OneRepublic.
High school principal Cynthia Lauzon said she was happy the music department was back at graduation. Music is important, she said, and gave some advice from a song herself, reading the updated lyrics to Baz Luhrmann’s famous graduation song. “Everyone is free.” In her version, she talked about Snapchats and TikToks instead of photos.
“Listen to music,” lauzon said “and just be.”
Guidance counselor Lisa Gillis received the Outstanding Educator Award.
This year’s guest speaker was a former Spanish teacher from Tupper Lake High School. Seniors Lowden Pratt and Ruby LaDue said she had been “much missed” there for his excellent storytelling, sense of humor, and class-only rule of Spanish, which helped them master the language they were learning.
MJ Melgar now lives in Boquete, Panama, but has returned to empower Tupper Lake seniors with worldly knowledge.
She said that fear – not that of self-preservation, but that which holds people back – is a seed planted in the mind, which, if it grows, can be paralyzing and can turn into belief or even truth.
But Melgar said, for her, fear is an acronym – False Evidence Appearing Real.
Fear is in control, she says, and if it can be changed, its reality can be changed.
“You created this fear, which also means that you also choose to deal with it,” Melgar said.
She said she didn’t let fear hold her back and that she enjoyed life because of it – whether it was traveling the world, falling in love with a bullfighter, doing ziplining over the mountains or moving to a foreign country to enjoy a “second childhood”.
“You can’t go back and make a whole new start, but anyone can start from now and create a whole new ending.” Melgar said.
Courage, she says, is not the elimination of fear, but perseverance in spite of itself.
Melgar told the students that their self-esteem is never determined by others, and to extend that value to others and treat them well. She said laughter helped her through some tough times. And she left them some tips on what to do when they hear music.
“I hope you dance,” she says.
London Tyo, the eldest who gave the closing speech, said high school had gone by in a flash and moments after moving her graduation cap tassel from right to left, she said the end of an era in their lives was just the beginning for the rest of them.
Tyo said the memories she made over the past four years will stay with her forever.
“It was a pleasure growing up with you” she says.