MOUNT CARMEL - Friday was a time to look back to the past and peer ahead to the future for the 109 graduating seniors of Mount Carmel Area High School.

Commencement speaker Charles M. Sacavage, who stood at the high school's podium 50 years ago as the valedictorian of the Class of 1964, said today's graduates are going out into a world that is changing exponentially. "I graduated from Mount Carmel High School 50 years ago into a nation and a world still suffering from the shock of John F. Kennedy's assassination," Sacavage said. "'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country' rang out in January of my freshman year."

Sacavage wondered what happened to that unlimited vision of America. He said some of it died in Dallas, while more of it died in the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam, the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and a Memphis motel balcony.

"The unlimited vision of America was gone and the Class of 2014 was born into a seemingly rudderless nation drifting and searching for an American that would or could never be the same," he said. "Victims along with Martin, Bobby and John were Ozzie and Harriet and June and Ward Cleaver. The mythical family in which I had grown up in the 1950s has given way to almost every conceivable 'family' combination imaginable."

'Continue to invest'

Sacavage challenged the graduates to make good on the investments the teachers, administrators and parents have made in them by keeping the investment current.

"Seek out and accept every opportunity to further your education. Make good on our investment. Have the same pride in yourself that we have in you this evening," he said. "Whether it is college, technical school, military service or the job market, our investment in your will pay major dividends only if you also continue to invest."

Alison Varano, the valedictorian of the class of 2014, gave her fellow graduates a look into a future based on their high school careers, showing they have one thing in common - where they grew up.

"As we all move on to bigger and better things, I want us to remember where we came from. Growing up in a small town has allowed us to all know each other pretty well, and sometimes maybe too well. I want us all to remember the memories together, the good or the bad," Varano said.

Varano said the ceremony could be the last time the class is together. She asked her classmates to find something they are passionate about.

"Believe in yourself, and work as hard as possible to achieve your goals. I hope whatever that may be, that you will find success and happiness in life," she said.

'Your own inner voice'

Class vice-president Cody Deitz gave the welcome speech. He thanks the parents, family and friends of the class for guidance and patience and the staff, crew and school board for making graduation night happen.

He then turned to his left and addressed the teachers sitting near the stage.

"This group of intellectual individuals is the reason all of these graduates are sitting here in front of us today. They are our friends, our family, and as a future teacher myself, role models for the students that walk into their classrooms every day. They have made the possibility of our future become a reality, and we wouldn't be here without their generosity and help," Deitz said.

To his fellow classmates, Deitz quoted former Apple chairman Steve Jobs who said, "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice."

"We need to find that spark of individuality that we all have and act upon it. It is what is different about us that makes us special. We need to listen to our hearts and we need to listen to our inner thoughts."

In his salutatory address, Bryce Fiamoncini discussed the three qualities he feels one must possess to be accomplished in life: academic excellence, determination and character.

"We are ultimately responsible for our own character, how we want to be portrayed and also how we want to be remembered at MCA," Fiamoncini said.

Fiamoncini left the graduates some final thoughts, all centered around the word "believe."

"Believe that Mount Carmel Area has provided the academic and social foundation for you to excel in any aspect of life. Believe that your family will always be there for you as you embark upon your new challenges and endeavors. Believe that the friends who have touched your life while at MCA will always hold a special place in your hearts. Lastly, believe that your individual character and integrity will take you through the next chapter of your life," Fiamoncini said.

Remembrances

The ceremony also featured several touching moments, including a standing ovation for the memory of Mildred Repella, who in 2005 established a scholarship trust in memory of her husband, Michael, which awards five $10,000 scholarships to deserving graduates every year. She passed away in August.

The award winners, announced at the graduation ceremony, presented roses to the Repella family members while the audience and graduates stood and applauded.

Honorary grad

Also receiving a standing ovation was veteran Michael J. Boylan, a special guest of the Mount Carmel Area School District, who served in the U.S. Army 1st Calvary Division, second battalion, and was a member of the old guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He attained the rank of sergeant.

Boylan, of Mount Carmel, volunteered for combat service in Korea in 1951 and was seriously wounded in a missile attack Oct. 4, 1951, in Sinchun, North Korea. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Medal, four Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

On Friday, he added another accolade when school board president Thomas Ditchey awarded Boylan with an honorary diploma from Mount Carmel Area High School.

When asked how he felt following the ceremony, Boylan merely said, "Surprised," before going back to celebrating the honor with his family in attendance.

Graduates

Andrew J. Allen, Sabrina M. Allen, Bryan E. Artman, Caitlyn J. Avellino, Joseph A. Bergan, Nicholas M. Bozza Jr., Gary T. Bregensir III, Olivia Bressi-Harman, Nicole A. Brosius, Dakota Brzostowski, Haidenne D. Phoung Bui, Bret M. Casper, Briana M. Chapman, Dylan R. Combs, Cody M. Deitz, Shawn M. Deromedi, Pamela A. Dobak, Jennifer Drumheller, Luke T. Duceman, Richard Dutter, Jason F. Eichelberger, Damion C. Emburg, Thomas J. Evans III, John J. Fetterolf, Bryce E. Fiamoncini, Eric Fletcher, Heidi C. Fletcher and Kirsten E. Gallagher.

Jessie A. J. Lynn Gibson, Jonathan W. Golazeski, Michael J. Grabowski, Sonya N. Grohowski, Brittany E. Gummel, Derek J. Harring, Lauren V. Hause, Angelina E. Herman, Annah-Marie Hinkle, Cory S. Hoffman, Jesse G. Hoffman, Jonathan M. Hojknowski, Cassandra M. M. Holmes, Darla C. Hood, Paige A. Hornung, Kaitlin A. Horsfield, Natalie R. R. Jackson, Jacob E. Jones, Jasmine C. Jones, Jenna N. Jurasich, Brandon J. Kinn, Robert C. Klingler, Lauren N. Krah, Michael D. Leaveck, Jayme N. Lentini, Brianna V. Lutz and Braden C. Maiese.

Kaitlin M. Malia, Desaree E. Malick, Kassondra M. Martz, Marcus C. Maschal, Chelsea M. Matos, David B. Menko, Trey A. Milewski, Kaitlyn F. Milo, Angela M. Minnig, Joseph M. Mirarck, Morgan M. Miriello, Samantha M. Miscavage, Randy E. Moyer, Alex J. Mrozek, Dustin J. Murray, Stephanie M. Neidig, Sierra A. Nolter, Brennan D. Okronglis, Jessica Pachuski, Emily Dianne Padula, Jonathan C. Phillipine, Sheyanne A. Poe, Gabrielle Ann Poplaski, Kyle C. Price, Heather C. Raker, Anna-Marie Zakeaya Raybuck and Allison Katrina Reinhardt.

Nikki Ann Santangelo, Karena N. Schmidt, Benjamin J. Scicchitano, Erin Scicchitano, Brandon M. Smallets, Brett M. Snyder, Nicholas A. Stancavage, Taylor A. Stefovic, Domenico A. Stellar, Brock J. Susnoskie, Coral A. Swank, Daniel J. Swatsky, Troy M. Tafner, Derek M. Thomas, Zachary Lee Thomas, Brandon C. Toter, Alison T. Varano, Faith C. Vernon, Zachary Victor Wasilewski, Justin Weaver, Jenna M. Weikel, Joseph R. Yeager, Brandon L. Young, Samantha M. Zanni, Joel S. Ziegert, Brett T. Zosh and Ezekiel Zsido.