PLEASANTVILLE - The leaders of the Pleasantville High School Class of 2013 implored their fellow students not to let anybody stop them from achieving their dreams - and they had a famous U.S. Olympian to back them up.

The 193 seniors who graduated inside the school's gymnasium Tuesday listened to their student leaders discuss the opportunities that awaited them – now that they are adults.

The ceremony also featured a speech by John W. Carlos a 1968 U.S. Olympian and bronze medalist who is most remembered for his silent protest on the medal stand when he and gold medalist Tommie Smith wore black socks, no shoes and raised their fists in the air during the national anthem to represent impoverished blacks in their country.

Carlos congratulated the class, noting the passion and sharpness he saw in their faces during the graduation. He told the class to take control of their lives and not let any outside factors control their mind.

"As a track guy, I learned not to look behind me at the past because the future can get away from you," he said.

The theme of the night was about how the class must prepare and direct their lives now that they are leaving high school.

"For four years we have watched you grow and tried to prepare you for what's next," said Principal Stephen Townsend. "As you leave tonight you will join us as neighbors, community members and fully empowered citizens. I hope most of you are ready - for (your) sake as well as ours."

Salutatorian Mayar Osman told the class to experience everything the world has to offer.

"I am no longer afraid of what's in front of me. I have come to realize at every ending there is a new beginning and a new journey," she said. "I encourage the class to take the world by storm. … Today is the day we are given our freedom."

Valedictorian Mihir Jani told his classmates to take a positive attitude with them through the rest of their lives.

"Don't be afraid to create your own path and create footsteps for others to follow," he said. "Don't let anyone, and I mean anyone, tell you because you went to Pleasantville High School you aren't smart enough or good enough. Never let people distract you from your goals."

Contact Joel Landau:

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