Graduation is a bittersweet ending for students who have spent years together, building friendships and bonding over shared experiences.
We will miss that sense of community, said Avery Burchfield, who along with his Altoona-area high school classmates graduated Friday night.
As students leave school and go their separate ways, Burchfield said she won’t get the chance to talk to her friends every day.
“Now we will all be apart” she says.
Burchfield has fond memories of broadcast class, as she bonded with all of her classmates and was able to make some fun edits.
Before heading to Penn State University in the fall, perhaps focusing on business or engineering, she plans to spend as much time as possible with her friends while working to save money and going to the beach.
Another future Penn State student, Janae Gillen, is pursuing a degree in nursing.
This summer, however, she wants to spend time with her family and friends, and travel.
Looking back on her school years, Gillen said one of her favorite memories happened in eighth grade.
“I would fall asleep and my teacher would put stuff on my nose or my ear,” she says.
Sofia Veneziano won’t have much of a school break as she attends Penn State’s summer session starting June 26.
“I’m going to take three courses and get those credits before I officially start in the fall,” she says.
Veneziano, who said his favorite class in high school was AP government, is majoring in political science and economics.
Olivia Chille is heading to Philadelphia to study Materials Science Engineering at Drexel University, but before that, she plans to spend a lot of time making more memories by taking a trip to the beach with some friends.
Then she will go with her family to Las Vegas at the end of July.
“Since I’m the only one going to Philadelphia, leaving all my friends will be difficult,” she says. “But I’m sure we’ll stay in touch.”
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Chille said the past year has been good and her class has achieved a lot.
Prom, Courtney Crownover said, was a highlight of the year.
She works at State College’s Olive Garden, and although she looks forward to moving there during the summer, she will miss the school routine.
“I will miss spending time with friends and attending classes,” Crownover said.
Although changes are also in the air for Mia DeStefano, she will continue to work at Human Society where she enjoys helping with dogs.
Excited to attend Juniata College in the fall, DeStefano still declared a major, but is considering something history-related with a minor in photography.
For her, a favorite school memory comes from ninth grade when she and other students were stuck on a broken down bus on their way home from Six Flags.
“We were stuck there for a few hours and then had to get back on a bus from Bedford,” she remembers.
High school drama club president Luke Rokosky plans to work at Shoe Carnival and take classes to learn some basics like Excel in preparation for Juniata College in the fall.
There he is enrolled in the college’s 3+1 program, where he will earn a bachelor’s degree in commerce the first three years and a master’s degree in his final year.
College will be a new role for Rokosky, who played Ebenezer Scrooge in the “Christmas song” and Joseph Pulizter in “New”.
Also a choir member, he participated in district, regional and all-state choirs and said he would miss all the friends he made at school.
But, when he goes off to college, Rokosky’s friend, Will Secriskey, will be there.
Secriskey is also enrolled in Juniata’s 3+1 program, but will focus on health care administration for his bachelor’s degree and business administration for his master’s degree.
Excited about the next chapter of his life, Secriskey thanks his teachers for pushing him towards his future, but said he will miss drama club, where he received an Issac Award for his role as Crutchie in the musical . “New”.
“I liked playing Crutchie because of his positive mind about things,” Secriskey said, and with that in mind, he plans to attend Inbound, a summer program at Juniata where he will have the opportunity to meet other incoming freshmen.
Friday night football games will be missed, Kaydince Kenny and Gabrielle McClellan said.
Kenny, who works at DelGrosso this summer before going to the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown, said she will miss football games with the band and being with her friends.
At UPJ, she will be majoring in biology in the pre-vet program.
“I can’t wait to go to the same college as my sister” she says.
Looking forward to college but looking back to her high school days, McClellan said she, too, will miss football games and cheering with her friends in the stands.
After working this summer, she is heading to the Vet Tech Institute in Pittsburgh to study.
This summer, Ashley Smith will continue to work at the Meadows in Duncansville and prepare for college – Slippery Rock University – where she will pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education.
Smith, who plays the violin, said she will miss seeing her friends every day and participating in after-school activities.
“My favorite memories are the performances of the string ensemble in the morning before school,” she says.
Medicine is the future of Macy Yost, who plans to follow a few doctors this summer. While astronomy was her favorite class in high school, she would go to the University of Pittsburgh to study biological sciences.
As they prepare for summer jobs and road trips with friends and family, AASD graduates said they are excited for the future.
“I can’t wait to go to university, to have a new freedom now and for the rest of my life”, Burchfield said, adding that she also plans to find a good job after college.
Mirror Staff Writer Cati Keith can be reached at 814-946-7535.