CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Change is coming, and the class of 2012 will help bring it about.
Cape May County Technical High School Valedictorian Bethany Rose Sneathen pondered the possibilities during a commencement speech Friday.
“The world is before us, and there is no doubt that our generation will change it. How will we change it is still the question,” Sneathen told her class of 122 graduating seniors along with family, friends and school officials in a packed gymnasium.
Sneathen pondered whether her generation would save the environment and the economy, support the arts and sciences, improve international relations, accept diversity or solve the health care dilemma.
“Or will we wreck havoc? Doubtless the future will not be perfect, but I believe enough of us have our heads screwed on right that we will not destroy the world,” said the Cape May Court House resident, who is heading to Princeton University in the fall to study molecular biology.
Sneathen advised graduates to take a realistic view of the future, but she told them not to expect life to be easy or to even make sense all the time.
“As a famous writer once said, ‘The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails,’” Sneathen said.
Principal Michael Adams introduced salutatorian Kimberly Lauren Dascher by talking about her volunteer work with senior citizens and animals. He even noted she had a pet rat and a pet lizard at home.
Dascher, who is heading to Richard Stockton College to study education and math, also did some thinking.
“Who am I? I consistently ask myself this question. On occasion, I feel confident in my answer. And on others, I don’t. But that is the beauty of our position right now. We are heading into the world as blank slates for life to write on. We are free to make our own decisions and forge our own paths. Our diplomas will serve as keys to unlock our futures,” Dascher said.
The Wildwood Crest resident also used her speech to thank individual teachers and her mother, who “dedicated 18 years to raising me.”
“I would first like to thank Mrs. (Gini) Tack for being a constant support system. You consistently pushed me to continue my work, even when I had given up on myself,” Dascher said.
She thanked Ed Leszczynski for urging her to believe in herself, Barry Kopf for putting so much time and energy into improving her class, and Hans Toft for teaching her about the natural sciences.
“You took a young, vegetarian animal activist and turned her into a boat steering, taste-testing, pro-crabber, shrimper and clammer. I will never understand how you did it, but I am forever changed,” Dascher told Toft.
Awards were also presented to the graduates, who filed in to the gym in a procession of green and white. The boys wore green gowns and mortar boards. The girls wore white.
“Now go forth. Achieve high and advance our reputation,” Superintendent Robert W. Matthies told them.
Board of Education President Robert Boyd talked about the “Tech way of learning,” whether it is in the greenhouses, the kitchen cafe, child care, communication, production technology or other trades. He told the graduates they must remember, learn and understand the past to anticipate the future.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, also spoke.
“Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t be what you want to be, do what you want to do, and that you can’t achieve success. If you have the heart and desire, you can. That’s what this school is all about. That’s what America is all about,” Van Drew said.
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