“New challenges await you,” Erwin said. “You start with a blank slate in the fall.”
He added that the graduates had been through a lot, especially the death of their classmate Nicholas Zuk last year.
“You opened your hearts,” Erwin said.
Zuk’s family received a diploma in honor of him.
Before the graduates said goodbye to high school, memories of the last four years were shared.
“We thought high school would be impossible, but yet here we are,” said Benjamin Kall, class president. “Entering Berlin High School as young teenagers, my classmates and I had absolutely no idea how to proceed.”
Salutatorian Hannah Schulz shared memories of lunch in the B Gym before renovations were complete, and Fridays off in September for the Berlin Fair.
“High school is a lot like getting hit by a twister,” she said, referencing The Wizard of Oz. “Find friends who will be there to oil your hinges or to stuff you back up with straw on days that just aren’t going your way.”
She warned of “poppy fields, or an 8 a.m. class and an alarm with a snooze button” after high school.
“When you feel like giving up, you may not have a pair of ruby slippers and three clicks to get you back home, but remember what you have been given: a brain, a heart and courage,” Schulz said.
Essay contest winner Lauren Nguyen took a more mathematical approach in advising her classmates.
“What does one plus one equal?” she said. “It is whatever you want it to be. It can be a number, a word, a person ... or a dream. One plus one equals your heart.”
The Berlin High School chorus kept with the theme of celebrating new beginnings with the song “Everyday” by Jamie Houston. Many graduates joined underclassmen on stage to sing for the last time as high school chorus members.
Valedictorian Jessica Jha encouraged her class to embrace the next step into the future.
“2017 has been a year filled with lasts,” she said. “2017 will also be a year filled with firsts.”
The first time being away from home, as well as the first time going out without having to check in with parents were among the “firsts” that Jha hoped the graduates will enjoy.
“While it is an end, today is also a new beginning,” she said. “Today commences the next adventure.”