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Columbia High School graduation at HVCCWhen the video began with the first photo fading into view, showing a group of four young students in elementary school, who were now much older and sitting at their high school graduation ceremony wearing caps and gowns, a loud and sentimental “awww” momentarily drowned out the music playing in the background.

The photos kept coming and going, just as the years had, and showed the Columbia High School Class of 2019 moving through elementary school, middle school and high school. There were class pictures and field trips, pep rallies and dances to illustrate all that had occurred on their way to graduation on Saturday afternoon at Hudson Valley Community College.

Now, with diplomas in hand, the 320 graduates are heading out into the world. Most will begin college, while others will start trade school, join the military or enter the workforce. Graduates will be attending prestigious colleges across the country such as the University of Cornell, Howard University, the University of Notre Dame and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

“The Class of 2019 is an amazing group of students who was always concerned about others,” said Columbia Principal Michael Harkin. “They will leave a big void at Columbia High School and I wish them all success.”

English Teacher Emily Shatraw delivering keynote address at graduation

English Teacher Emily Shatraw delivers the keynote address at Columbia High School’s graduation.

Speakers during the graduation ceremony included Mr. Harkin, Class President Nicole Presti ’19, Student Council President Nicholas Furnari ’19, Salutatorian Leif Haley ’19, Valedictorian Sam Koblensky ’19, Superintendent Jeff Simons and English Teacher Emily Shatraw, who gave the keynote address.

Always an educator, Mrs. Shatraw used her final moments in front of the students to teach one last lesson. She offered the students 10 pieces of advice, in the same way, she said, that Polonius did in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Among that advice, she told the students to remember their deadlines, drive within the speed limit, and to not put a price on education.

“Your education can never be taken from you,” she said. “Never cease in your pursuit for knowledge.”

The Class of 2019 has certainly pursued knowledge in the East Greenbush Central School District, and earned many accomplishments along the way. Mr. Koblensky, Kate Burns ’19, George Culver ’19, Ryan Doyle ’19, Kelly Nagel ’19 and Sydney Sill ’19 led the Columbia Science Olympiad Team to a NYS Championship this year and 11th place at the National Championship, its best finish ever.

Mr. Koblensky was named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and Mr. Haley participated in a statewide Electronic Music Composition Showcase.

Michaela Davis-Pedlar receives diploma

Michaela Davis-Pedlar ’19 shakes hands with Superintendent Jeff Simons before receiving her high school diploma.

Michaela Davis-Pedlar ’19 completed her Science Research project on “Outcomes of Congenital Heart Surgery in ‘High Volume’ Versus ‘Low Volume’ Centers” and received a full tuition scholarship to Barnard College of Columbia University. She hopes to become a pediatrician or cardiologist.

Molly DeMarco ’19 received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in recognition for her outstanding community service, including her painting of three murals inside Columbia. She will be studying history and music at SUNY Oswego this fall.

Student athletes from this class continually showed their character throughout high school, helping Columbia to win the state sportsmanship award each of the past four years.

Whether it was academics, the arts, athletics or community service, the Columbia Class of 2019 made its mark. One can only wonder what they will be able to accomplish in the future.

“Never ever doubt yourself in the pursuit to achieve greatness,” Mr. Furnari told his fellow graduates. “And now we’re here, ready to go onto the next chapter of our lives – college, the workforce, the military. Whatever you decide, I still believe that the Class of 2019 will be wildly successful.”

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