PORT BYRON — The new Alberici Field at Dana L. West Jr.-Sr. High School was symbolic for a few speakers at the Port Byron Class of 2019's commencement Friday evening.
Melinda Quanbeck, president of the district board of education, believed the turf field served as a reminder of the range of possibilities awaiting the 84 new graduates. Completing the turf field and other parts of the $13 million capital project took architects, engineers, construction workers and other professions, Quanbeck said. And with their diplomas, the graduates could become any one of them.
"Sometimes we forget how many professions it actually takes to make the world work," she said.
Following Quanbeck, district Superintendent Neil O'Brien delivered what he joked was his "outdoor speech," written in the event of nice weather. For him, the new field represented the progress within the district. Noting its graduation rates of 60-70% a decade ago, O'Brien proudly said that rate has since risen past 90%, making Port Byron one of the more successful districts in Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES. After his "outdoor speech" was hurried to its end by light rain, the Class of 2019 received its diplomas before a crowd of about 300 family and friends packing the home bleachers.
Among the graduates was valedictorian Emily Ryan, who said in her address that it felt like just yesterday when she and her classmates were "shy, timid seventh graders" walking the halls. After thanking family and friends, and recalling fond class memories like Port Byron faculty performing the "Mean Girls" dance at a pep rally, Ryan looked to the future her class faces.
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"It's OK if you enjoyed high school, and it's OK if you didn't," she said. "Our stories are not over."
Before Ryan was salutatorian Bronwyn Roberts. The class of 84 is larger than most from Port Byron, she said, but still small compared to many schools. Recalling the viral story of Kyle MacDonald, who traded a red paperclip for a house through a series of online transactions, Roberts said that she and her classmates traded 13 years for a diploma. And they can now trade that diploma for anything.
"With a little determination and creativity, anything is possible, even if you're starting small," she said. "Size doesn't limit us in pursuit of our dreams."