PHOENIXVILLE - Despite gray skies and threats of rain, the Phoenixville Area High School Class of 2004 graduates spoke of friendships, values and milestones during their graduation ceremony inside the school's auditorium Tuesday evening.
Following a rousing rendition of the National Anthem sung by Andrew William Leggieri, everyone in attendance was welcomed by Class President Amanda Elizabeth Jewell.
Jewell compared the Class of 2004 to the recent end of the television sitcom series "Friends."
"So, no one told you life was gonna be this way, your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's D. O. A. It's like you're always stuck in second gear, when it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year..."
"Many of you may recognize these words from the theme song of the popular TV sitcom series 'Friends,' said Jewell. "No one told Ross, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Monica and Chandler how their lives were going to turn out after the first show premiered in the fall of 1994. For 10 years, we watched the six fictional characters mature, face challenges, establish relationships, bond, support one another, and grow as a group.
"But no one told us, the Class of 2004; it was going to be this way when we entered first grade in the fall of 1992. That day we formed an exclusive bond and became members of the Class of 2004."
Jewell thanked her mother for sending her back to school after a trying first day of first grade.
"When I came home from my first day of first grade, I walked in the house, threw down my backpack, kicked my shoes off, and announced to my mom, 'I'm hot, I'm tired, my feet hurt, and I'm NOT going back tomorrow!' If I didn't go back the next day, I wouldn't be here tonight and would not have been a part of the Class of 2004. So, thank you mom for rubbing my feet and telling me I had to go back.
She concluded by saying, "Congratulations to the class of 2004 and good luck in all of your future endeavors. And just remember, 'I'll be there for you, cause you're there for me too'."
After Superintendent of School Dr. David R. Noyes acknowledged the Honor Stole Recipients, Salutatorian Quan Le Hua spoke of how the graduates would be "getting paid for 12 years of hard work."
"Today, June 15, 2004, is our official payday," said Hua. "In our hands, we will soon receive our paychecks for not two weeks of work, but 12 years. Addressed in our names will be blank checks, whose values are yet to be written not by our parents or teachers, but by us. How much we value our own work will reflect their true worth. While we bargain within our minds for a price equivalent to 12 years of accomplishments, I hope that there is no number great enough to satisfy it.
"The value of this check is infinite. We can choose to add to its value in continuing our work beyond high school, or we can choose to cash it in and accept it as it is today. Now may be our payday for 12 years of work, but we don't have to make it our last. For the past 12 years, we haven't been ending each school year with an empty account. We have always been paid, not in jewels, diamonds, gold, or silver, but in something more invaluable: knowledge."
After Mark Casaday, president, Board of School Directors, acknowledged the Education Award Winners, the Phoenixville Area High School Band performed a selection by Eric Whitacre entitled "October."
Principal Richard Kaskey thanked everyone involved in setting up the graduation from outdoors to indoors, then said to the class, "You've heard many times, 'Wait until you get into the real world. You are in the real world now, and the decisions you make now will affect you the rest of your lives."
Valedictorian Crista Alexandra McDonald spoke of her first day in kindergarten, and of a boy who used to put potato chips inside his ham sandwich.
"My greatest memory from kindergarten is about the boy in my class who brought a ham sandwich and a bag of potato chips for snack every day. And each day he put the chips in between the pieces of bread before eating his sandwich. Now this might not sound very gross now, but it definitely was to me as a 5-year-old. Apparently, that boy and his sandwich affected me enough to make it into my graduation speech, 13 years later.
"Graduation is a very special and symbolic night which we will remember for a long time. During our years at Phoenixville, we have experienced these milestones together as a class. What we have learned in high school has definitely prepared each of us for the road ahead, but just as important are the lessons that were taught in kindergarten. We might seem different, but we really are all the same. Accept guidance from sincere people, for life's lessons aren't meant to be learned alone. But most of all, put chips on your sandwich if you want, and in the words of Warren Zevon, 'Enjoy every sandwich'."
Dr. Noyes stated that a high school diploma was presented to World War II Veteran Joseph Anthony Sparano at a special ceremony earlier this year. Dr. Noyes then presented Vanessa Lynne Boschi with the inaugural Phoenixville Community Education Foundation Scholarship.
After the 218 graduates received their diplomas, Stephanie Frances Harris, secretary, Class of 2004, passed the gavel off to Paige Stanley, president, Class of 2005. Following the ceremonious tossing of the caps, the graduates left the stage to celebrate with family, friends and well-wishers.
Elizabeth Ashley DiGiovanni said she's headed to the U.S. Army Reserves in August.
"For the time being, I'm going to continue working at Classic Billiards and Robert Ryan's Catering during the summer," she said. "I'm looking forward to doing administrative work once I'm in the reserves, then who knows what I'll do from there."
Going on vacation to Florida and Cape May is on the agenda for Sarah Louise DiSimone this summer.
"By the time I get back from vacation, I'll be getting ready to go to Wesley College for accounting," she said.
DiSimone said she'll always have fond memories of Phoenixville Area High School.
"I'll always remember when we came back from summer break, and there were backhoes in the gym," she said. "The school at that time didn't have floors or ceilings. It's come a long way since then."
Music is on the mind of Brian David Langdon, who will be studying music education at West Chester University in the fall.
"I hope to go on to teach at either a middle school or high school," said Langdon. "Perhaps I'll be performing the trombone or baritone as well. I'll be majoring in trombone."
Langdon said it was amazing hearing his name called, then to have his father David hand him his diploma.
Another graduate going to West Chester University is Gregory Grieves, who'll be majoring in business law.
"I've been told I have great people skills," said Grieves. "It's now time to put them to good use."
Sharing a moment with her parents Linda and David, Hayley Christine Granacher will be refining her culinary skills at the Penn College of Technology this autumn.
"I'm going to study to become a pastry chef," said Granacher. "I got into cooking in ninth grade and I want to pursue it further."
Her father David said, "She's worked really hard over these 12 years, and she's going to do well in the future."
Hayley said the one thing she'll miss from high school is all of the friends she's made over the years.