BLOOMSBURG - As the valedictorian of Southern Columbia Area's Class of 2014, Carissa Jones looked out at her fellow classmates who, like her, are ready to take the plunge.

"Today, we stand on a cliff, looking out over the sea. Some are ready to jump right in, to ride the waves to greatness as they dive into their career," Jones said. "Many are waiting before they take the plunge, expanding their knowledge before they join the others, and a select few are protecting the land and the water, keeping the rest safe while we become who we are destined to be."

Jones and her 114 classmates sat among family and friends in Mitrani Hall on the campus of Bloomsburg Unversity Sunday to receive their diplomas.

In her valedictory speech, Jones wished her classmates the best, asked them to never change who they are for someone else and enjoy their lives.

"Remember to appreciate every second of life and constantly work to be the best you that you can be. Class of 2014, congratulations, and welcome to the rest of your life.

Every year, the class votes for a teacher to address the class during the commencement ceremony. This year, they selected English teacher Michael Johnston.

"When I graduated from high school I was ranked 74th out of the 99 graduates, and after my first year of college, I quit," Johnston said. "That's right, you voted for a former college dropout to speak at your graduation."

Johnston went on to say that maybe it was a great idea for that.

"Who better to inspire you all to never give up and to fully take advantage of the opportunities that come before you,' Johnston said. "Always remember that weakness of attitude is weakness of character, and weakness of character is dangerous."

Class president Teanna Shutt welcomed everyone to Sunday's ceremony, at first talking about the past accomplishments of the class, but then reminding them of the reality before them.

"As we accept our diplomas, we are accepting new responsibilities. We're no longer naive children, we are mature men and women who are stepping forward with confidence and enthusiasm. Tomorrow, we will be embracing an unknown beginning, a new journey that is up to us," Shutt said.

The ceremony also featured remarks from this year's Distinguished Alumnus Award winner, Tom Pipa, a 1982 graduate, former pro tennis player who is currently working for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Also, Charles Nesbitt, 90, of Catawissa, was awarded an honorary diploma..

After tassels were moved, diplomas were handed out, while special performances by the senior members of the chorus and two seniors, Mackenzie Brouse and Alex Cove singing "For Good" from the musical "Wicked," Salutatorian Justin Ernest found one last nugget of inspiration for his classmates, quoting Bloomsburg University English professor Dr. Stephen Whitworth.

"He said, 'Keep working hard and producing quality work of which you can be proud wherever you go. You won't regret it. Your potential is boundless.'," Ernest said. " I challenge each and every one of you to become a leader and influence other people for the betterment of society."


Graduating in Sunday's ceremony were: Nathan M. Beagle, Nina C. Benner, Travis L. Bertovich, Reba L. Broadfield, Mackenzie E. Brouse, Anne P. Bryden, Bailey S. Bzdak, Mackenzie A. Clark, Amanda R. Consentino, Alexandra L. Cove, Brandon M. Cox, Aaron J. Crawford, Justin D. Dancho, Shannon A. Daubert, Jasmine M. Deitz, Robert S. Delbo, Collyn J. Drake, Brittany A. Duncan, Destiny H. Duncan, Janelle R. Erdman, Justin D. Ernest, Kimberly D. Ettinger, Kenneth A. Fegley, Adam J. Feudale, Sarah R. Fisher, Angelo U. Forti, Christopher Fulgham, John J. Gennaria, Brenna D. Gessner, Jenna M. Gutekunst, Tessa M. Haines, Sarah E. Harder, Kristina D. Hartanft, Nicholas W. Heaps, Sara A. Hendricks, Ashley N. Hill, Nathan R. Hunter, Patrik M. Jarvelin, Samantha L. Jeffrey, Carissa R. Jones, Lauren E. Kerstetter, Alicia A. Kirwin, Katelyn M. Klinger, Kathryn R. Knause, Kenneth M. Knouse, Jonathan J. Kofskie, Racquel I. Kreischer, Jensen N. Kremser, Tegan J. Kriebel, Grayson E. Krieger, Max J. Kushner, Nathaniel L. Leiby, Ryan A. Leisenring, Storm M. Letterman, Dylan M. Levan, Miranda S. Long, Matthew H. Lupold, McKenna C. Lupold, Rebekah J. Lyash, Madalyn Ann Marzeski, Koy M. McCloskey, Megan L. McHugh, Ryan William McKinley, Douglas B. Michaels, Damon L. Miller, Nina M. Miller, Nathaniel J. Mitchell, Samantha J. Moyer, Stephanie C. Myers, Cody W. Olson, Don J. Orr, Avory D. Pantalone, Cody R. Pavlick, Jordan R. Persing, Mason S. Peters, Alexis E. Piez, Cheyanne Popewczak, Allen L. Potter, Logan D. Reynolds, Christian E. Rutkoski, Chevy Ryan, Israel J. Santiago, Gabrielle L. Scherer, Zachary J. Schuerech, Alexander B. Scull, Kara L. Scull, Sabyasachi Sen, Brett M. Shepard, Marjorie M. Sherwood, Teanna R. Shutt, Anna C. Snyder, Hannah B. Snyder, Joseph W. Snyder, Garett L. Sosnoski, Amber L. Srednicki, Madelyn E. Stabinski, John V. Stanishefski, Mitchell R. Stanziale, Andrew N. Steely, Jordan M. Swisher, Beau G. Tamanini, Samantha M. Thomas, Zachary Bo Tillett, Joshua M. Tripp, Celeste D. VanHorn, Molly G. VanWieren, Emily J. Vitkauskas, Angela R. Vought, Jessica C. Watkins, Kc H. Welkom, William P. White, Michael A. Willhoit, Tristan L. Williams, Royce J. Yeager and Erin E. Yoder.