ADAMS TWP — Deepayan Patra admits he may not be the best person to have given advice to his classmates Thursday.
Still, the 16-year-old student didn't take lightly the challenge of speaking to his fellow Mars High School graduates during the ceremony.
“Apparently, today, I'm supposed to let you all know how to live perfect, successful, happy lives in the next two-and-a-half minutes,” he told the 286 graduates. “But I'm 16. I can't even drive yet. All things considered, I'm probably not the best person to give you advice on living life.”
Instead, Patra, who will attend Carnegie Mellon University in the fall to study computer science, urged his fellow classmates to look toward the future while remembering their years in the district. He said his fellow classmates helped him to break out of his shell and find his path in life, a fact for which he is grateful.
“I want you to remember that the best part of each and every one of you is your kindness, and it is the quality that I hope will define your future,” he said.
Nathan Walker, who will also attend Carnegie Mellon in the fall to study chemistry and Spanish with hopes of going to medical school, echoed Patra, saying Mars has been the one constant in his life since moving to the district in eighth grade. That includes the relationships and memories made along the way.
“Even though your time at Mars is coming to a close, this does not mean that your high school experience has to be erased from your existence,” he said. “Whether your plans take you to the entire opposite side of the country, or simply nearby, close to home, your friendships and memories will most likely be the things from high school that you remember.”
Those memories and the future were on the mind of Daniel O'Connell, senior class president, who told his fellow classmates that they now get to find out who they really are.
“As of now, everything that you do is a new experience,” he said. “It's your first chance to be the person you want to be, not the person your teachers, your friends and your parents expect you to be.”
That includes choosing a career, finding new relationships and making choices on one's own — both hard and not so hard.
“Two days ago, we had to ask to go to the bathroom for the last time in our lives,” he said to laughter. “Now, there isn't even anyone to ask.”
Wes Shipley, district superintendent, said graduates will inevitably face challenges as they head into the world, but he, the teachers and staff know they are ready to face those challenges head on.
“You've been schooled at Mars Area High School. You've had wonderful teachers, supportive families, and you're among the very best teenagers in all of Western Pennsylvania,” he said. “You've been prepared for the next phase of your life and you're ready for any challenge that is brought your way. So with just a little bit of effort, you will be successful.”
The district does not announce its valedictorian and salutatorian until after the last day of school when all final grades have been tabulated. The names of those students are expected to be released in the coming days.