Bellefonte celebrates Class of 2019 with emotional ceremony

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Bellefonte Area High School seniors make their way to the gymnasium for graduation ceremonies on Friday night.

BELLEFONTE — It was an emotional evening at Bellefonte Area High School.

As graduating seniors walked the hallways for the final time in their scholastic careers and made their way to the gymnasium to celebrate the Class of 2019, senior class president Max Kroell took it all in.

“It’s really bittersweet,” said Kroell. “You know you’re leaving, but you know you’re going to do great things. Right now, I’m just excited. It’s hard to believe that it’s here. It’s been a really amazing day.”

Kroell was one of several speakers during the ceremony, which was forced indoors due to construction at Rogers Stadium. The gymnasium was standing room only and an overflow crowd watched a live feed in the school’s cafeteria.

He told his fellow students that their journey is just beginning.

“Class of 2019, you are the future. I see nothing but potential,” he said.

Retired teacher and coach John Wetzler was the featured speaker and his speech did not disappoint.

“I was surprised, humbled and honored when I was asked to give this address,” he said matter-of-factly.

In his speech, Wetzler talked about his long and winding road through the education system. A 1972 graduate of Lock Haven University, Wetzler joked about the price of a secondary education all those years ago.

“It cost me $5,000 for all four years. My student loan payments were $61.29. I’m glad to say that it’s paid off,” Wetzler said, getting laughs from the audience.

Wetzler, who has spent 40-plus years in education, encouraged students to chase their dreams.

“There’s a plan for each one of us. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box,” Wetzler said. “I encourage you to find something you love. Sometimes, things aren’t going to go the way you planned. But don’t give up.”

In addition to Kroell, students Halle Mitchell (class valedictorian) and Elizabeth Giacobe (salutatorian) also gave passionate speeches.

“Today is a tremendous day and an amazing achievement,” said Mitchell, who is going to Princeton.

Prior to the ceremony, Mitchell talked about what an emotional day it had been.

“It’s kind of sad, because I know it’s going to be a really big change. I know I’m not going to be in the area to see these people anymore. But it has been awesome to see these people grow,” Mitchell said.

Giacobe poked fun at the no-cellphone policy and took time out to take a selfie with her classmates as the backdrop.

After the selfie, Giacobe got serious.

“Everyone has their own path in life,” she said. “It is time for us to go our own ways.”

Other speakers included superintendent Michelle Saylor and high school principal Michael Feddison.

Saylor talked about leaving behind a legacy.

“We shouldn’t ask ‘what will you do when you grow up?’ We should be asking, ‘what legacy will you leave behind?’ … Legacy is about the difference you will make in the world,” she said.

Feddison told graduates that even though they may leave the high school, the county and even the state, Bellefonte will always be a part of them.

“Some of you will return home and some of you will travel the globe for the rest of your lives,” he said. “But no matter where you go, there will be a Bellefonte graduate near you. Bellefonte graduates do great things.”

A total of 205 students took part in graduation ceremonies on Friday night.