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STAFF PHOTOS/ROBERT BAKER English teacher Katie Wisnosky was keynote speaker for the senior class’ graduation

Under picture perfect skies with a bit of a nip for this close to summer, some 190 Tunkhannock Area High School seniors went through graduation Friday night at Memorial Stadium.

Principal Todd Bosscher welcomed the seniors and their families and friends.

Senior Dinah DiMeolo introduced Sergey Montross, who is headed to the military after graduation and he led those assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Class president Levi Westfield said the evening and time in high school made him unbelievably proud of his graduating class and he was ready for the next chapter to start.

He asked those who were planning to join the armed forces to stand and thanked them for their selfless act.

He said he spent a good deal of time dwelling on his speech and getting input from family.

The one that seemed to resonate the most, Westfield said, was from an uncle who suggested looking at the movies featuring Sylvester Stallone in the character of Rocky Balboa.

“It ain’t how hard you hit, it’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward,” Westfield said.

He noted that “life will hit us like a ton of bricks, several tons of bricks... Move forward. Do not let them be your determining factor. Get hit and get back up.”

He concluded, “Show the world that you are capable of moving forward from everything it’s got. Your drive, your fire can set the world ablaze. Just get back up.”

Salutatorian Jared Fernandez said for his speech he asked for input from his classmates.

He said that Abbi Mingus told him,”Just remember bosses don’t usually accept notes from your mother.”

Fernandez quipped, that if they did, “You might want to get a new job.”

His foray into soliciting quotes, Fernandez said, made him realize just how unique an experience high school was.

“Don’t be sad that it’s ended, but be happy that it happened in the first place,” he said. “It truly is a beautiful thing to even exist.”

At that point in the program the band and chorus did a pair of numbers appropriate for the evening: ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’

Valedictorian Ryan Zalewski said he never really contemplated what being first in his class meant until he was in ninth grade.

He acknowledged that being first left him with “The hours of endless worrying and homework, lost sleep, and missed experiences was not worth this title,” then smiling, said that a more burning question was whether the footlong sandwiches at Subway were really 12 inches.

“But that’s another story.”

In the end, he said, “Do what makes you happy because your happiness is what really matters.”

“So, no, the title of Valedictorian isn’t worth the lost time and emotional torment that I put myself through, but the personal growth that I have gained, and the benefit I will provide to others was definitely worth the struggle.”

And, with those words, his class gave him a standing ovation for his brutal honesty.

Zalewski then introduced the keynote speaker, selected by the glass, teacher Katie Wisnosky.

In her speech, Wisnosky lifted up the names of just about every one of nearly 200 members of the class.

Starting with varsity athletes Hailey Farr, Kendra Schultz and Hope and Faith Jones whom she said inspired her own daughter Kali in Tunkhannock’s historic run to the Little League Softball World Series last summer in Portland, Ore., Wisnosky had something unique to say about nearly every one of the graduating seniors.

It was an opportunity for the language arts teacher to make the exclamation point that lives matter.

She said that most of the students already seemed to have a great handle on life, but offered five tips for their lives after high school.

First, Wisnosky told the students to reflect on what they were most passionate about and pursue it.

Secondly, she said they needed to learn how to handle criticism, because the world is filled with opinions.

Then, she said they needed to reach out to the community in a positive way that builds that community up so the world is a more tolerable place.

Fourth, Wisnosky said to do the things that are not required of you, but go beyond and build bigger dreams that can become reality if you don’t give up.

And, finally, she told the graduating seniors to place empathy at the center of their existence so they can give back to the community in ways beyond what others may have done before them.

In concluding she said, “You can change wherever you go from here. You choose your life.”