JOHNSONBURG – Kayla Pavlock, the class valedictorian of the Johnsonburg Area School District's Class of 2012, recounted her 12 years of schooling Friday night during commencement ceremonies held in front of a packed house at the high/middle school.
Pavlock recalled her early memories of moving from the elementary school to the big building on the hill.
"When we first began school at [the] Johnsonburg Area High School [JAHS], we were timid seventh graders," Pavlock said. "However, as the years went by, I personally created two goals that I strived to achieve, which were to get accepted to the University of Pittsburgh as a pharmacy major, and to be the valedictorian of our class."
The standout senior was able to make both of those goals a reality.
"However, when I looked back, it is not the achievement that makes these so special to me, it is the experiences that I have, and the memories that I will forever take with me with the Class of 2012," Pavlock said.
The senior also felt comforted with a quote from Dr. Seuss, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
"When I saw this quote, I knew that it was perfect advice for all of us," Pavlock said. "Then I look around and think, guys, we really did it. We finally made it to graduation.
"We finally reached the point that, before, seemed would never get here, but as we look back, we don't know where the time went. It feels like just yesterday we walked through these doors as seventh graders, running to each class so we weren't late."
Pavlock also remembered the joy of the realization that each first day of the new school year meant members of her class were each one year older, which meant "we were one year closer to becoming 'big bad seniors.'"
"Walking through those doors on the last first day, reached 12th grade, it did not seem like six years of being at the Johnsonburg High School had passed by," Pavlock said. "We would not have made it this far is we did not have our parents, [guidance counselor] Mrs. [Judy] Allegretto, and the wonderful teacher staff.
Pavlock also shined the spotlight on the graduates' parents.
"We wouldn't be here at all if it wasn't for our parents," Pavlock said. "I think they have done a phenomenal job raising each and every one of us. Our grade as a whole is a great group of kids that are all really close, helping to become this way because of how we were brought up.
"Thank you for always supporting us in everything we do, and helping us to get to this point in our lives."
Despite tears shed, Pavlock said parents should remember that "we aren't leaving forever."
"[We're] just continuing our lives, whether it's a U.S. military branch, the work force, or college," Pavlock said.
The valedictorian also paid tribute to Allegretto, the district's guidance counselor who assisted the graduates in finding over a combined $450,500 in scholarships, grants and awards.
"[Allegretto] has helped us in so many ways, pushing us to be our best that she knows we can be," Pavlock said. "Many of us would not be accepted to college if it were not for her knowledge and effort in helping us further follow our dreams.
"So thank you Mrs. Allegretto, for being intimidating as we were younger to help keep us on track, and help us so much as we planned our lives after high school."
Pavlock also expressed her appreciation for the teachers and staff at the school.
"I think that thanks deserves to be given to the faculty," Pavlock said. "The teachers are great. They are always willing to help any student in need, staying after school, answering countless questions, and even pushing their work aside during their prep period to make sure any confused student understands the material that they are being taught.
"Thank you so much for being so concerned in our lives, and for going above and beyond your work quota. Your efforts will forever be appreciated by all of us."
After 12 years in the school district, Pavlock expressed indecision about whether or not she was ready to leave.
"We have grown up together, helping to shape each other into the young men and women sitting here on this stage [Friday]," Pavlock said. "I consider all of them my family. Through the years, we have made so many memories together, ones that we will never forget."
The valedictorian recalled the "Get in the Game" play in sixth grade and a class trip to Washington, D.C. in elementary school.
"Now that we are here, we have so many other times that helped make our high school so much fun… like being back-to-back powderpuff champions," Pavlock said. "Just to name a few, we spent countless hours on prom decorating which brought on many laughs and a prom we will never forget, the haunted hallways both years, and the most recent trip to Disney.
"During this, we got the chance to have our own private plane to Mississippi, watching Luke Shreffler sing to all of us over the loudspeaker, and performing his own version of 'Call Me Maybe.' After being stranded in the little Jackson airport for six hours, I am sure that most of us never want to travel back to Mississippi. All of these times I will treasure forever, as it helped to make my high school experience so much more enjoyable.
And despite being in a class of only 48 graduates, Pavlock said she would not have it any other way.
"There are so many things that I love about our class that makes us unique," Pavlock said. "I love that for each person, I have at least one memory that I will cherish with me forever because we are all so close.
"However, even though we lack in numbers, we do not lack in talent. We all have something that we are good at, something that we feel can make us stand out in a crowd."
Pavlock said the class is blessed to have great singers, including Taylor Scida; "awesome artists" like Tommy Wildnauer, Katie Shaffer, and Damen Ordway; and several stellar athletes, including 4-year wrestler Michael Kennedy; 2-time state place-winner Kiesha Dornish; Kelsey O'Rourke, a school record-holder with three other teammates in the 4X800-meter relay race with two district crowns; and Michael Shuey, Class AA state champion in javelin.
Pick up a copy of the Monday, June 4, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.