BELLEFONTE - More than 245 students were led by the Bellefonte Area School Board, and walked a corridor of honor lined by their teachers, as they participated in commencement exercises Friday evening before a large crowd in Rogers Stadium.
They did so to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance," as the family members and friends applauded their accomplishments as new graduates.
The ceremony was held under a brilliantly perfect venue, with the green hills surrounding the stadium, blue skies covering the field and bright clouds offering brief moments of respite from the yellow sun, as it descended behind the trees.
Bellefonte's graduating seniors gathered for commencement exercises Friday evening, and embarked on a new chapter in their lives.
"These have been times of disappointment and of great happiness," said class president Grant Ralston, as he urged his fellow graduates to enthusiastically accept new challenges as they "journey into the world of the great unknown."
Principal Jennifer Brown congratulated the class, and add several kind words for the staff and administrators who aided them in this night's achievement.
She also urged the graduates to focus on their passion, whatever it might be, and pursue that passion with a singular focus. She said the graduates will see bad days, but these will be few and far between, if the focus remains on true dreams.
"Ice cream cone," Valedictorian Arimani Caprio said. She chose ice cream cones as a theme because, like the students, they include the cone as a great support system, just like the family and friends of the grades. And like ice cream, she said, each graduate exhibits a different flavor, and tastes change over the course of an education, a year or a lifetime.
"We are proud, we are the class of 2012, and we are ice cream cones," she said.
It's unusual for avowed best friends to earn highest honors in a graduating class, but in this case, Caprio and Salutatorian Courtney Foley are best friends - and have been since they attended the same classes together for 12 years.
She said back in kindergarten and first grade, she and her fellow graduates had never even dreamt about graduating high school, and now they were planning for higher education or future careers.
The featured speaker was Elizabeth M. King, a 1975 graduate of Bellefonte Area High School who went on to join Starbucks as a vice president and continues to hold high positions with the largest coffeehouse company in the world.
King remains well connected to the local community. Her parents and many relatives, close or distant, boast of attending Bellefonte area schools.
"I was sitting on the other side of this podium 37 years ago," she said. "You will remember this night for the rest of your lives."
King said Bellefonte Area School District carries a high responsibility, as it has the highest number of successful graduates "per capita in the nation."
As King measures success, she noted teachers, business leaders, musicians, war heroes, corporate leaders, farmers, clergy, firefighters, police officers and skilled tradesmen are included in those ranks.
Most importantly, King said, these are citizens that remain true to core values they learned at home and in the schools, and represents "citizens who give back ... our volunteers."
King said it's a changing world, and many of the jobs the graduates will be holding 10 years from now have not yet been created. She noted that in her personal life, she's held many positions with Starbucks, and created a few when none were readily available. She urged the students to be aware of those changes and to look at them as opportunities for growth.
As for the maxim of the day, she quoted Shakespeare: "The choices we make dictate the life we lead," she said. "To thine own self be true."