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‘I’m so very grateful for you all’

“Wouldn’t it be amazing to control what happens, to know how things are going to turn out, and to have comfort in knowing things are going to work out in your favor? Unfortunately, that’s not how things work. Change is the only constant.”

Following two years of unwelcome strife, the truism delivered by class speaker Shley Nathan was received with introspective gravity during Liberty HS’s historic 100th graduation the evening of June 8.

Given the hard reality of the COVID crisis, she said, separated from loved ones and coping with schooling through Zoom meetings, “It’s no surprise I sometimes felt disappointed and unmotivated by bleak circumstances. But situations in life require us to choose what outlook we will have.”

Nathan said, “Change can be positive or negative. We can only move forward, we can never go back. It’s up to each individual to decide that. None of us expected the four years we experienced, but we made them our own. The challenges didn’t hinder us from being committed and focused. We all understood how to manage our way through when faced with drastic change.

“It is no mistake that we are the 100th class of Liberty HS.”

Pronouncing the evening’s theme of perseverance and taking challenges in stride, class secretary Abigael Omwega quoted the poet Maya Angelou: “’You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.’ Tonight is proof that we would have to be reduced by the trials and tribulations we’ve undergone.”

Student speaker and football player Anthony Sarkozy underscored this refrain. “We all experienced unexpected challenges we had to overcome. We all remember how crummy the last two years have been. We fought through a global pandemic that greatly hampered our lives. But we remained resilient. We all stood up to the challenge and embraced it all.

“But it wasn’t easy. I decided to put my head down and go to work. I also attribute much of my success to my grandfather, Tony Philo, the hall-of-famer, who taught me who to love, grind, and appreciate very aspect of life.

“I remember the first day of school, walking aimlessly through the hallways, just wondering what the overpass actually was and opening the first apple juice cup in the lunchroom. It was all so different, and I credit those around me as the upperclassmen welcomed me with open arms and showed me the ropes on how to handle this place we now all call home.

“I’m so very grateful for all of you. You made my life so much better and I hope that I did the same for you.”

Principal Harrison Bailey III expressed pride in this class of graduates as he completed his own 10th year as Liberty’s leader, listing impressive top academic awards and an astonishing 40,804 volunteer hours generated for the community – more than 6,000 over the requirement for the 580 class members.

“On your first day of freshman year, we told you how wild the ride would be for the 100th class of Liberty HS. Little did we know how wild it would be. The last four years has proven you are capable of handling the toughest challenges life will throw at you. I hope you are excited and I know you are prepared for the incredible next phase of your life. An old African proverb states, ‘If you really want to grow trees, pray for rain, but don’t forget to water your seeds.’

“You are now prepared and it is time to meet the approaching opportunities head-on. The ability to identify what you love and how to use it to impact our world is more critical than ever. We are steadily facing worldwide illnesses, reoccurring financial crises, soaring energy and fuel costs, a mental health epidemic and unprecedented political polarization. It will take the courage and contributions of your generation to address these challenges.

“Know that the mission to improve the lives of your fellow citizens is the real measure of success. You have truly made us proud. I’m sincerely honored to stand by your side and call myself a Hurricane.”

Intent on the school’s impressive milestone, administrators shifted focus away from the pandemic hurdle to the future.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy said, “Tonight we share a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a community. As one voice. The 100th class to grad from Liberty HS. It’s not often we can realize that the moment we are part of is something big, something historic. But here we are making history together. This happens once, and we’re here together to see it happen. We have families who can trace their great-great grandparents to the earliest graduating classes from Liberty HS, and at the same time our community has welcomed waves of families coming to Bethlehem from all over the world.

“What has never changed is Liberty’s role as a place where every person belongs and has value. It’s a symbol of hope, education and the American dream.”

Before freeing the waiting graduates to turn their tassels, School Board President Mike Faccinetto said, “Ninety years ago in a midst of a nation in turmoil, and a terrible war in Europe, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, ‘We have faith that future generations will know here, in the middle of the 20th century, there came a time when men and women of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery and war.’ Ninety years ago but sadly still relevant today. Class of 2022 what will they say about you?”

Press photos by Dana Grubb Post-commencement, this group of graduates gathered for one last photo before heading off to further their education at Penn State University, West Virginia University, Nova Southeastern University and Lehigh University.
Liberty scholar and class President Sarah Park encouraged the Class of 2022 to, “Take the risks you've been afraid to take.”
Class speaker Anthony Sarkozy summarized his class's four years saying, “We all persevered, not only individually, but as a class. We stood up to the challenge.”
Faculty speaker Shley Nathan reminded her classmates that, “We are the future change makers. Our class has effectively represented the values we will build on.”