POTTSTOWN PA – You could see it in their smiles: happiness! You could see it in their eyes: contentment, but a bit of melancholy, too. And you could see it in their stance and comportment: erect, poised, and ready to tackle what’s next.
The 2019 graduating class of Pottstown High School set off Friday (June 7, 2019) for their bright futures from commencement ceremonies in the gymnasium on North Washington Street (at top). Each of its members had that look of satisfaction, the indication they were ready for challenges as tough or tougher than the one they just finished.
Class Valedictorian Will Minnick and Salutatorian Asgar Ali acknowledged what lies ahead, no matter where each student was headed. “When I look at our class now all I see is endless potential and future greatness,” Minnick observed. “My fellow classmates, we are all creative, intelligent, and vibrant energy capable of doing anything we set our minds to,” Ali added.
- Read the full commencement speeches of Minnick and Ali below.
The event was rife with remembrance, too.
An honorary diploma was posthumously awarded to Pottstown resident Marge Foley, one of six children of parents who immigrated from Czechoslovakia. Before her death in May (2019) at age 96, Foley volunteered for 17 years at Rupert Elementary School, helping children learn. District officials said she “had enthusiasm and passion that motivated those around her.” She never graduated from high school, though, as she began working in the 8th grade to support her family. That missing piece to Foley’s full life was also put into place Friday.
2019 Commencement Speech of Valedictorian Will Minnick
Some of you may remember me from 5 years ago when I spoke to you all in 8th grade at the end of the year. From the laughs we all shared that day and happy faces I saw when I was finished, I knew that I wanted another chance to speak in front of the class 4 years later. Through my hard work and dedication, I have reached my goal and let me say that it is truly my honor to be in front of you again at the end of our scholastic journey together.
During this time we have all grown into the young adults we are today. We all come from different upbringings and have different stories but all share this building in common. Here is where I believe we truly became a family. Just think of it, most of us have spent the past 12 years of our lives seeing each others smiling faces each day at school for 6 hours each day. This is more than half of our young lives that we have been together. We have had our ups and downs together, experienced different teachers, principals, and classes, grated on each others nerves, and helped each other in our darkest times. So although many of us may never had ever seen each other until 3 days ago at our first graduation practice, you all will always be a part of my extended family.
You all have made an impact in my life and I am truly blessed to share this point of my life with all of you. When I look at our class now all I see is endless potential and future greatness. Whether it be the next big sports star, Broadway musician, recording artist, painter, doctor, actor, mechanic, engineer, or even a cosmetologist I know the class of 2019 will not disappoint. We are presented today with the opportunity to be the next generation of alumni to write the future for Pottstown. I challenge each and every one of you, in whatever you do in your lives, to make a difference for our small town. Too long have we fallen victim to unfair judgment from the surrounding districts. We can be the first of many to redefine what it means to be proud to be from Pottstown. We are now the role models for the younger generations to look up too. So whatever life throws your way, make sure you put forth nothing less than 100% as we all have worked too hard to not reach our dreams now. And speaking of dreams, dream big people. Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first woman president once said, “If your dreams don’t scare you, you are not thinking big enough.” Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you find yourself off path as well. There are so many people that want to see you succeed and will be willing to help, whether it be your parents in the stands, the teachers here in attendance, or even myself. I want nothing less than to see each and every one of you succeed in life. We all deserve it and it is within our grasp. Hard work is always rewarded in the end.
We can look at our lives as one big story. We have many chapters to it, but do not let this be your defining one. There will always be times where we will fail in life and may come up short, but we need to remember that with every closed door in life another one is opened. Do not think of failure as a bad thing, it is simply a small speed bump for us to learn from.
In writing this speech I wanted to focus on the big picture for all of us as a whole. So although I may stand up here at this podium and address you as the “number one in the class,” do not let this undermine the great achievement we all attained today. No one person should be looked at as “better” tonight. We all worked hard and made it to the same point. The truth is, all that matters is that we all came into this school at the same time, and now we are all leaving together at the same time. At the end of the night we all go up to the library and get the same piece of paper. The only thing that truly separates us today is the names on our diplomas.
I would like to say how truly proud I am of all of you. I am honored to have shared so many memories over the years and thankful that I have gotten to share this part of my life with all of you. As I said before, you are all a part of my extended family now and I will never forget the impact you all had on my life. Work hard and great things will come your way. I will leave you with this statement, the same way I did in 8th grade, “Work hard in everything you do and Strive for greatness, but always remember we are the one and only class of 2019!” Thank you, god bless, and have a great night.
2019 Commencement Speech of Salutatorian Asgar Ali
Good evening, parents, teachers, faculty, and my fellow classmates, my name is Asgar Ali and I am the senior class salutatorian. Class of 2019, we started from the bottom and now we’re here. Congratulations! During these past four years, I treated every decision like I was in a do or die situation. Dying wasn’t within the plans, but neither was making it, and here I am today giving a speech. Before I commence my address: I want to recognize the people who have impacted me throughout my educational journey. First and foremost, thank you mom, dad, bhaiya, apu, and Subrina for always assisting me in my endeavors. If it weren’t for your typical Asian austerity yet loving support, I wouldn’t be standing here today. Thank you Mr. Rodriguez, Mrs. Francis, Mr. Armato, Mrs. McCoy, Mr. Livengood, Mr. Delaney, Mr. Miller, our guidance counselors, our teachers, and the entire staff of the high school for being the glue that held our community together throughout my four years here.
Thank you Mr. Andrew Bachman for being an exemplary mentor to me. Some of the best memories of my high school experience has been in your presence particularly working on our model to reduce food waste in our school cafeterias, building the school kitchen in Ecuador, going to a variety of educational tours, and of course the enlightening conversations we would have as the students concocted their latest projects at our engineering workshop. Thank you Mr. Cal Benfield for not only making me a good writer but a better human being. Even though you always drowned us with work, I always felt a different sort of comfort in your class because of your openness and your sense of humor. Thank you Mr. Woodley for all the memorable times in MIS and for laughing at me when I stumbled and fell in the hallway. Thank you Madame Cherneskie and Mrs. Martinez for being such amazing advisors for our class. It has been a true honor serving as the class treasurer under your supervision. And lastly, a quick shout-out to my best friend Mitchell Aquino for being there when I needed him the most and teaching me to relax and live a little.
Now onto my actual address: I want to start off by asking a peculiar question. “Do you know what people and light bulbs have in common?” Well, they both have different colors, various sizes, and they are manufactured in different places. Some are dim, some are bright, some clear and some are broken. People and light bulbs both seem very different on the outside but on the inside they are the same. There is one current running through each bulb. In the same way, there is a singular form of energy running through each person here tonight. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your race, gender, or nationality is, that’s just the bulb. Inside of that is who you really are: energy. Energy that does not have color. Energy that’s neither democratic nor republican. Energy that’s not Christian, Muslim, nor atheist. My fellow classmates, we are all creative, intelligent, and vibrant energy capable of doing anything we set our minds to. But remember, your mind is the most powerful force you will ever face in the world. It will tell you lies. It will tell you that you’re not good enough or you cannot do something. You have to thank your mind for its opinions and carry on. Only after you conquer your mind, will you be able to accomplish all of your goals.
Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is a fool.” Class of 2019, be the genius that I know you are. Do what ignites a genuine fire within yourself. Among our small class, we have a successful Youtuber, two budding photographers, multiple extraordinary artists, athletes, and even a brand ambassador. We as a class have collectively improved our community and also the world. We have reduced food waste in our school cafeterias, organized the school’s first snowball, improved the lives of children in Ecuador, performed in some of the best school musicals that PHS has seen, arranged rallies against gun violence, and even created a self-sustaining garden in the courtyard. Class of 2019, I’m proud of all of our accomplishments. My message to the underclassmen who are present tonight is to continue this chain of impactful actions throughout your high school journey and continue making us proud to be from Pottstown. My departing message to the class of 2019 is, that we have unbounded potential. As you step into the real world, don’t be a fish trying to climb up a tree, instead, embrace the water, float freely, and create waves that will leave a lasting imprint on society. Thank you, and congratulations again!
Photos from the Pottstown School District