The Lansing School District and members of the community gathered at Sobus Field on June 28 for the graduation of the high school’s 71st senior class of 74 students.
High school principal Colleen Ledley welcomed those in attendance to begin the ceremony before a quartet of seniors—Ellen Howell, Sierra Stallman, Isabella Robson and Anna Lewis—performed “Found/Tonight” by Ben Platt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Howell and Stallman were on vocals while Lewis was on the piano and Robson was on the cello.
Following the students’ performance, superintendent Chris Pettograsso then came up to the podium and gave a welcoming address to the crowd and shared her sentiments on what it means for her to be a member of the Lansing community.
Pettograsso then shared her thanks for members of the community involved in school affairs—Board of Education and PTSO members, those who participate in the district’s booster clubs, local businesses and every current and retiring employee at the district—as well as the graduating class itself.
“I’ve had the honor of watching you grow for much of your education at Lansing, and you have made me so proud,” Pettograsso said. “You have excelled academically, athletically, artistically, theatrically, musically and civically. You are our leaders, our future, and with the exception of just a couple questionable decisions you’ve made over the years, I have absolutely no doubt in your leadership abilities.”
Much of her speech focused on feeling and expressing gratitude. Pettograsso encouraged the senior class to feel gratitude and referenced a quote from author Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. When you’re grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
“Today on this day we have much to be grateful for,” Pettograsso said. “So thank you class of 2019. You have made us proud, and it has been an honor.”
After Pettograsso’s speech, senior class co-presidents Matthew Kirkwood and Samantha Sanito spoke. Sanito shared her thoughts first on her time at the Lansing School District, thanking those who assisted her and every member of the graduating class along the way.
“To our teachers, administration, grounds crew, family and friends, thank you for sticking with us and helping us to get to this point,” Sanito said. “We know we did not make it easy for you.”
She then focused on her four years attending the high school and how much each and every person in the graduating class has changed since their freshman years.
“For some of us we may not even recognize who we were when we walked in to [Lansing High School] for the first time,” she said. “But for all of us, we learned not only the lessons taught in the classroom, but also the sometimes brutal, yet rewarding lessons life had to offer. Through our crippling losses and our greatest gains, we were reminded that high school isn’t only about going to class everyday, writing papers, studying for tests, SparkNoting and complaining about homework. High school is making friends, maybe getting your first job and ultimately starting to discover who you really are.”
She reminded her classmates that this is only the first of many steps along their journey to becoming who they aspire to be. Kirkwood said his classmates should appreciate all of what they have achieved thus far.
“The bonds that we have formed over the long textbook assignments, group projects and teamwork from these goals we’ve accomplished will last a lifetime,” Kirkwood said.
Music teacher Lyn Weil also gave a speech at the ceremony, sharing a quote from musician Shinichi Suzuki: “If a musician wants to become a finer artist, he must first become a finer person.” She offered suggestions as to how one could become a “finer person.”
“Take the time to discover your passion,” Weil said. “Find what you love to do, what makes you happy. Embrace your uniqueness. Allow yourself to be you, and not let other people think you should be. Some of you may already know your passion. Some of you are still searching, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Before handing out the diplomas, Ledley offered some remarks of her own. She told each graduate to be “kind to yourself,” “forgive yourself if it all doesn’t work out perfectly” and “ride the wave of uncertainty until the next great option appears right in front of you.” She also urged them to “stay engaged in the world around you.”
“Don’t check out. Believe me, the world needs you,” she said. “I can’t imagine a more exciting or a more important time to be a young adult in this world. I know that many media sources tell us how divided we are and how scary the world has become. I ask you not to give in to fear, because it doesn’t move us forward. Instead, offer to be part of the solution and demand to be heard.”