Principal Finnerty to grads: ‘Make it a great life, Panthers!’

After each new grad­u­ate walks the stage to receive their diplo­ma, Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner meets them at the bot­tom of the steps to shake their hand.

On Friday night he shook the hand of near­ly 385 grad­u­ates at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena. As he held the hand of Alexandra Brandis, who’s on her way to George Washington University to major in eco­nom­ics and polit­i­cal sci­ence, and minor in Mandarin, Dr. Harner asked when she’s run­ning for pres­i­dent. The self-assured and high-achieving stu­dent respond­ed imme­di­ate­ly: “2036.” The super­in­ten­dent smiled.

The Quakertown Community High School chorus does its thing during the Commencement Ceremony at Lehigh University's Stabler Arena.

The Quakertown Community High School cho­rus does its thing dur­ing the Commencement Ceremony at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena.

Alex is the type of stu­dent QCHS offi­cial­ly sent out into the world after Principal Dr. David Finnerty con­clud­ed the com­mence­ment cer­e­mo­ny with his “Make it a great life Panthers!”

These young men and women have scholas­ti­cal­ly achieved great things. As Dr. Finnerty recit­ed for the large crowd:

  • 17 stu­dents have com­mit­ted to serve our coun­try in the Armed Forces.
  • 43 seniors will serve our com­mu­ni­ty by enter­ing direct­ly into full time employ­ment, includ­ing many in their trade learned at Upper Bucks County Technical School.
  • 273 will fol­low their dreams to a col­lege cam­pus this fall in a 2- or 4‑year pro­gram. Collectively, these stu­dents have earned more than $6.2 mil­lion in schol­ar­ships.
  • 65 seniors have earned mem­ber­ship in the National Honor Society.
  • 17 seniors have earned mem­ber­ship in the National Technical Honor Society.
  • 62 achieved AP Scholar recog­ni­tion by their 11th-grade year, includ­ing 13 with Honors, 24 with Distinction, and 3 AP National Scholars (David Michael Fletcher, Nicole Katherone Gromadzki and Adria Lea Retter).
  • Three stu­dents earned AP Capstone diplo­mas, “Our most chal­leng­ing Pathway,” Dr. Finnerty said. They are Mikayla Joy Fuentes, Hailey Marie Reiss and Sophia Marie Shaiman.
  • Earlier this week, QCHS pre­sent­ed 158 local­ly spon­sored awards and schol­ar­ships to 106 seniors worth more than $108,000.

And as he read these record-setting accom­plish­ments, you couldn’t help but notice the pride­ful smiles of teach­ers and coun­selors, who formed a pro­tec­tive flank for the stu­dents seat­ed in the cen­ter of the Stabler floor. It’s not unlike their lessons each day in class­rooms, music rooms and ath­let­ic fields instilled a resolve in them to car­ry as they take their next steps.

Kurt Handel, advis­ers to the Class of 2019, with Bethany Fuller, Dr. Nick Hood and Andrew Snyder, said as much dur­ing his time on stage. He thanked QCHS English teacher Mr. Mackey for help­ing him write his resume 25 years ear­li­er. “He was a part of my life suc­cess net­work along with many of my teach­ers,” Mr. Handel said. “All these teach­ers are here for you for a life­time, just as Mr. Mackey was here for me and many oth­ers.”

There were also kind words for Stephen Kimball. Called to the stage by Dr. Harner, the big-hearted assis­tant prin­ci­pal is leav­ing the dis­trict to attend law school. With the help of Lincoln Kaar, the Video Production teacher, Mr. Kimball put togeth­er a video for the Class of 2019. Mr. Kaar, and stu­dents Amelia Derry and Joe Lock, streamed the grad­u­a­tion live on the QCSD TV News Youtube chan­nel.

Student speak­ers includ­ed Class Officers Mikayla Fuentes, Sarah Godshalk, Paul Hand, and Zachary Zajkowski. 

Mikayla not­ed that their high school careers began 1,383 days ago in the for­mer Freshman Center (now the Sixth Grade Center) on Aug. 31, 2015.  “I dis­tinct­ly remem­ber the terms ‘Milford kid’ and ‘Strayer kid’ being thrown around, but as the year went on, those labels fad­ed. We stopped see­ing each oth­er as the rivals we once were. We learned to embrace each oth­er as the indi­vid­u­als we are even with our dif­fer­ences, and because of that, peo­ple were able to explore and embrace their own indi­vid­u­al­i­ty.”

Sarah recalled walk­ing into her sopho­more English class with her two best friends. “We strolled in, eager to per­form our live action Hamilton skit we had per­fect­ed the night before.  Our teacher sat in his icon­ic swiv­el chair in the front of the class, com­put­er in hand, eager to watch his stu­dents make utter fools out of them­selves. But my friends and I walked into that room with such con­fi­dence I swear we thought we wrote that play our­selves.  The sim­plic­i­ty, the mem­o­ries, the sense of a fam­i­ly. That is what I will take away from these past four years at Quakertown.” 

Paul advised his fel­low grad­u­ates: “Whether you have found your pas­sion already or are active­ly seek­ing one, remem­ber that it is impor­tant to be com­fort­able and sat­is­fied with what you do in every moment. When some­thing good hap­pens, enjoy it. When some­thing bad hap­pens, under­stand why it hap­pened. But most impor­tant­ly, in either case, move on to the next day.

Twenty years from now you will be more dis­ap­point­ed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bow­lines, sail away from safe har­bor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Zachary also had some advice for grad­u­ates. “Appreciate the abun­dance of oppor­tu­ni­ties that Quakertown has offered and be proud of the lega­cy that we have cre­at­ed. Just as Tony Stark said, ‘part of the jour­ney is the end,’ and while we are at the con­clu­sion of our high school chap­ter, there are still plen­ty of chap­ters to be writ­ten. Seize the oppor­tu­ni­ty and become the best ver­sion of your­self. I hope you con­tin­ue to make the world a bet­ter place. I love you 3000 Class of 2019.”