By WINNIE BLACKWOOD
For the Express

JOHNSTOWN — The cloudy sky cleared and the sun made its appearance just in time for Johnstown High School’s 136th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, foreshadowing the graduates’ bright futures ahead.
Valedictorian Daniel Jarabek calculated 1,389 days have passed since he and his fellow classmates first walked into the doors of Johnstown High School.
“In that time, we have shared endless laughter, constant drama, never-ending mental breakdowns, numerous all-nighters and so much more,” Jarabek said. “But behind the tears, the sweat, the fights and the hugs, we developed relationships that will impact the rest of our lives.”
Relationships with teammates, classmates, teachers, family and friends are the reason the graduates can say they made it to this day, Jarabek said.
“From academics to athletics to the social and emotional obstacles of high school, we never gave up on each other,” Jarabek said of his classmates. “In the over 33,000 hours we spent as a class, not a single one was wasted.”
Jarabek said the relationship with his late grandmother, who passed away three months ago, was a driving force for him to succeed. Seeing her grandson graduate was the last thing left on her bucket list.
“Class of 2017, I urge you all to carry on her spirit of life and take advantage of every opportunity presented before you, the same way she did as we move into the next chapter of our lives,” Jarabek said.
Salutatorian Chloe Salisbury said for her speech she is supposed to bestow her wisdom upon her classmates, but in reality she is just “a 17-year-old who go a 98 on an eighth grade spelling take-home quiz” and was not sure what she knew.
Not knowing what her purpose in life is yet or what it’s definition stands for her class, Salisbury said a generic response is given when asked for plans after graduation.
“In reality, we may only have a vague outline of what our future has in store for us,” Salisbury said. “When our plans go awry we will need to modify them. That’s okay. Modifications aren’t so bad.
“What I do know, however, is whatever you do, don’t do it for Instagram, don’t do it for your parents, do it for whatever you’re passionate about,” she added.
Over time, this purpose will be revealed in some capacity, Salisbury said.
“…[T]he good news is many of my peers today have already demonstrated their interests in the form of arts, music, sport and academics,” Salisbury said. “This graduating class is comprised of future scholars, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians and much more.”
The responsibility to find themselves and the opportunity to redesign themselves has also been given to the graduates, Salisbury said.
Class President Chelsea Cirillo used analogies in her speech with one from her favorite basketball coach, Tim Derwin, that read, “It’s a simple game — a game of possessions. It’s about what you do with them … or what you don’t that makes all the difference.”
Cirillo urged her fellow graduates to make the most of their own possessions and give it a 110 percent, no matter what their future endeavors are.
Johnstown High School Principal Scott Hale listed the phad challenges the graduates partook in throughout the school year, including the mannequin challenge and the bottle flip challenge.
Hale then gave the 130 graduates one last challenge to strive for greatness, to dream big and beyond Johnstown and to overcome obstacles.
“Greatness comes in all walks of life,” Hale said. “Whether you are enlisted in the military or going to college to pursue your career of choice or going directly in the workforce, I challenge you to be great.”
Graduation day is a day to say hello to adulthood and goodbye to childhood, said Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Patricia Kilburn.
Advice offered by Kilburn included to develop integrity and to be courageous.
Board of Education President Kathryn Zajicek began her remarks with quoting the film, “The Wizard of Oz,” with the line, “There’s no place like home.”
Leaving home is a right of passage and the time to do so is nearing for the graduates for multiple reasons with one being just because they can, Zajicek said.
“Don’t be afraid to click your heels three times and recite that familiar line whenever you feel the need,” Zajicek said. “When you leave here today with your new diploma of entitlement and as you begin your own way, we say congratulations, best wishes and no matter how far you go in life may you always find your way home.”