Chris Sciacca/The Daily ItemBradley R. Brown and Ashley A. Shirk sing 'The Star Spangled Banner' during Milton Area Senior High School-s commencement Thursday evening

MILTON -- Graduating seniors were told to look back and look ahead during Thursday night's commencement ceremony at Milton Area Senior High School.

Salutatorian Mark Jacobs reminded his 177 classmates: "Some say we are moving on. We are not moving on. Moving on implies we want to forget what came before. We are simply moving forward, never forgetting the journey."

Each of the four speakers reminisced about how they'd gotten to where they are today and who had helped them along the way, but they also focused on how those experiences would shape their futures.

"We have to utilize those traits, friendships and ideals so that we can seize the opportunity and make our own futures to what we want them to be," said valedictorian Jordan Krebs. "Our past reflects who we are; who we are decides what opportunities we seize; and the opportunities we choose to seize decide our future. It is into that future that each of us now embarks."

School principal Bryan Noaker said the graduates would be pursuing a wide variety of fields, including education, medicine, and finance and accounting. Most of the students going on to college will be staying in the state.

But while most students have mapped out their futures, or at least the next few years of them, commencement speaker Trevor Danowsky reminded them of the unpredictable nature of life.

"We find security in the idea that we can create a timeline of our own lives," he said. "But these choices, these plans and these timelines are made based on our situation at this moment. We are completely unaware of the opportunities that may present themselves to us later in life."

Both Mr. Danowsky and fellow commencement speaker Katie Hackenberg, ranked seventh and fourth in their class, respectively, acknowledged the trepidation most of the graduates probably felt at their impending departure from the norms of high school.

"How can we tell where opportunity will lead us? The truth is we cannot," Mr. Danowsky said. "We cannot pretend to know what life has in store for us and we cannot predict our future. But we can learn to deal with the curves that life throws us."

Ms. Hackenberg reassured the students by telling them that graduation was just a new beginning.

"Remembering all of the beginnings we have already completed helps to make the future less scary because life is just a series of endings following by beginnings ... a cycle," she said. "If moving on with the rest of your life seems too big of a task, think of it as another small beginning in the series of ends and beginnings that make up your life. Everything must end for a new, and possibly better, time to start."

n E-mail comments to rscott@dailyitem.com.

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