PHS graduates 217 in Class of 2013

Superintendent Julia Espe, school board member Deb Ulm and PHS Assistant Principal Darin Laabs participated in handing out the diplomas. The student is Claire Barthel.
Superintendent Julia Espe, school board member Deb Ulm and PHS Assistant Principal Darin Laabs participated in handing out the diplomas. The student is Claire Barthel.

Princeton High School awarded diplomas to 217 seniors Friday, June 7 in the school auditorium, and the audience backing the room heard a number of speeches with advice, humor and reflection.
Giving the speeches were co-valedictorians Sydney Arens, Claire Barthel, Nathaniel Hoffer and Isaiah Mayerchak; co-salutatorians Suzanne Voce and Dan Voce; class member Dalton Mattson and guest speaker Jim Baxter.
The Symphonic Winds played “Xerxes,” and the Concert Choir performed “Papa Loko.”
Superintendent Julia Espe, Principal Pete Olson, Assistant Principal/Activities Director Darin Laabs, and school board members Craig Johnson, Jeremy Miller, Chuck Nagle, Howard Vaillancourt and Deb Ulm handed out the diplomas.
The speeches
Music teacher and band director Jim Baxter, himself a tuba player, challenged the graduation class to “shoot for the moon, dream big, take chances, play tuba and be alive!”
Baxter then quoted president Theodore Roosevelt in saying: “The best thing you can do is the right thing , the next best thing is the wrong thing,and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
Baxter encouraged the graduating seniors to “get offline,” and experience the world first hand. “Experience is what makes life’s journey worthwhile,” he said.
Sydney Arens relived the experience of when her parents brought her to school on the first day of kindergarten.
“My mom frantically tried to unbuckle me as I screamed and held onto the seat belt as tight as I possibly could,” she recalled. “I was sure that if I held on long enough, they would give up and wouldn’t make me go.”
Arens described her father grabbing her feet while her mother was working to pry Arens’ hands off the seat belt before the two pulled her out of the van. Arens likened the scene to a “shrieking little five-year-old girl, hanging out the door of the conversion van, suspended horizontally between a crazy mother and her father tugging at her feet.”
Arens expressed gratefulness for her parents in their effort to take her to school that first day, and for the kindergarten teacher who Arens remembers having to pry her hands from her parents.
“Thank you for putting up with us, even when we were kicking and screaming,” Arens said. “We are who we are because of all of you.” Arens thanked all who supported her and her classmates and for teaching them respect, “for letting us find our own way…for listening… and acknowledging how hard we worked…” She also thanked all who “have instilled values in us” and a “strong passion for learning.”
Arens asked each classmate to thank “one special person who has helped you get to where you are today.”
Isaiah Mayerchak called the members of his class the “luckiest people in the entire world” because of living in America and being guaranteed an education. American students don’t realize the value of the education they have been given because “we’re so used to being handed things like education,” Mayerchak said.
Mayerchak said that while everyone has a right to either “use or waste our time and education, that doesn’t seem right…We need to remember that there are countless more people in the world who don’t enjoy the things we do…who are deprived of basic human liberties…and aren’t able to receive an education like the one we were lucky enough to receive.”
Mayerchak stated the graduates have a “responsibility to these deprived people,” and said his class must “embrace the responsibility that comes with education.”
Claire Barthel said her class has come a long way in 13 years. She called it a group of “incredibly talented, passionate, ambitious individuals who may or may not still wet the bed, who hopefully appreciate what their parents and teachers have done for them, and who are no longer selfish, but instead realize the importance of friendship and community.”
“No matter what your high school experience has been, every one of us has had an impact on at least one of our classmates. We have made friends to laugh with, cry with, and to trust. And as we leave high school and continue into the future, we must  remember the friends that got us where we are today, “ Barthel said.Barthel said she thinks she can speak for her classmates in saying “none of us are quite sure how to feel today. We don’t know if we should feel happy to start the next chapter in our lives, scared to be thrown into the real world, or sad to leave behind the school, teachers, and classmates who have helped shape who we are today. Our journey has been a great one, which is what makes our graduation today so bittersweet, but what is to come in every one of our futures has even more potential for greatness.”
Nathaniel Hoffer said that as adults, people can make choices to affect their future.
“We can decide to go out every weekend and get wasted…can decide if we want broken families, and we can even decide to look at the future as a bleak stretch of time that is only just better than nothing at all,” he said.
Hoffer called those courses of action “taking the easy way out,” including “not taking a stance on anything…”
“Doing the tough things in life is what separates us from the animals,” Hoffer continued. Hoffer suggested his classmates try to choose a life path where they don’t, in old age, regret having wasted their life.
Hoffer encouraged his classmates to rise to the challenge to “imbue every moment with purpose, to find a reason and a joy deep inside ourselves to make this world beautiful, and if we can’t find that purpose in ourselves, to reach out to a higher power.”
“I had a dream,” Mattson declared. “I had a dream that little white milks and little chocolate milks would be joined together every day in that cooler there in the cafeteria.”
While that had strains of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, it also referred to a new meal restriction at the high school starting last fall. This past year the school went from offering chocolate milk all week long, to just allowing it one day per week, as part of meeting new federal nutrition rules for schools.
Mattson tied  his overcoming  not getting as much chocolate milk at school to “overcoming all the small daily obstacles.”
Mattson encourged his classmates to “make every year your best year,” to “set goals…and strive to achieve those goals… and make some awesome memories on your journeys…”
Mattson urged his class to “go out and change the world,” and to remember, “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start…”
The Voces
Dan and Suzanne Voce, cousins who became the two salutatorians, had one speech together that they took turns delivering. The speech began with acknowledging “all of the people who taught and inspired us throughout our lives…parents, friends, family members, coaches, teachers, and others around the community…”
The Class of 2013 has achieved excellence these past four years, “but we owe the majority of our accomplishments to the individuals who have guided us on our journey to success,” the Voces said.
The Voces listed a number of PHS achievements in the arts and sports this past school year and added: “We hope you will carry on the right path and continue the success achieved during high school. In doing so, we trust that all of you will keep growing as individuals and representing the class of 2013 with pride.”