Saratoga Central Catholic Valedictorian Emily Wenke and Salutatorian Jonathan Ares
Saratoga Central Catholic Valedictorian Emily Wenke and Salutatorian Jonathan Ares

By Emily Wenke 

Good Morning! I am honored to welcome parents, guests, faculty, staff, distinguished guests and the Class of 2021. I would like to start off by thanking Bishop Scharfenberger, Superintendent Virgiglio, Father Vivacqua, Father Ebert and the board members for being here today to help commemorate this major milestone in our lives. I would like to give a special thank you to Principal Kilmade who has worked so hard to make this year special for our class, Mrs. Mulkern who has guided us every step of the way, Coach Lambert who has helped our return to normalcy when it comes to sports, our class advisors, Mr. Johnson and Mrs. DeVivo, for helping us have a successful year, and all of the faculty and staff at SCC for guiding, teaching and helping us grow as people throughout our middle- and high-school years. I would also like to thank the parents and guests that are here today to celebrate what we have achieved and thank them for always being by our side. Lastly I would like to congratulate my fellow classmates on their accomplishment.

The Book of Matthew, Chapter 5, Verse 16 says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Today our lights are shining on our friends, families, teachers and everyone important in our lives. Today is the day when all of our hard work has paid off.

In our 13 years of school, we have achieved so much; our lights have shined bright and we have done amazing things. Every person in our class is unique and contributes something to the family that we have formed. Thanks to our Catholic education and the support we have received from our families, we have grown into the people we are today. Everybody has a skill or aspect about them that makes them such an intricate and remarkable individual. We have our athletes who have dedicated years to their sports. We have our performers that can sing, act and skillfully play instruments. We have classmates with unmatched ambition and dedication when it comes to school, and others with a passion to serve and help everyone they come in contact with. We have leaders, activists, people to make us laugh, and people we can count on to always check in and be a friend to all. I have known some of you for three years and some for 13, but it is clear to see how each and every one of us has grown.

Today is a big day. This is the day we have been looking forward to for years. It’s one of those days that has such a big build up that there are so many emotions you don’t know what you’re going to feel. When I was writing this, I was contemplating how I would feel today. I think I am feeling what all of you are feeling: I am excited for the future and sad about what I will be leaving behind. But I might be feeling something that may not have even crossed your mind. I am experiencing fear. That is because, to me, graduation represents moving forward in life, and to me, that is scary. There are so many unknowns and so many obstacles to overcome.

Fear is something that is present throughout life. Everyone has little fears, like riding a roller coaster, public speaking or driving on a snowy night. Then there are the bigger fears. The fear of failure, of rejection and of loneliness. The gut-wrenching feeling when someone you love is in danger or sick. Those are the fears that can be all consuming.

We all have one of these big fears, whether it’s losing someone we love, growing apart from our closest friends or getting injured and not being able to play the sport you’ve dedicated everything to.

Personally, my biggest fear is something that is always in the back of my mind, and contrary to popular belief, it is not bees, the bug or grade kind. My biggest fear is being forgotten. I am always afraid that no matter how much work I put in or how hard I try, it won’t be enough.

I’m sharing this with you because I think we all experience this type of fear in our lives. Maybe you are experiencing it now, wondering if anyone will remember your high school legacy. Maybe you are afraid that your friends will forget you or that you won’t make an impact on anyone’s life. Maybe you are afraid that you won’t make an impact on the world.

But I want you all to know that I will remember you all.

Emmy, I will remember how impressed I am by your bravery to be unapologetically you.

Eliza, I will remember your hard-working attitude in all that you do.

Jon, I will remember how I was pushed to be my best because of your intelligence and drive.

Grace, I will remember you as someone who can always find the best in people.

Miranda, I will remember your ability to always stay calm and cool in any situation.

Cody, I will remember you as someone who always stands by their morals.

Megan, I will remember your amazing aux skills and your chill personality.

Catherine, I will remember your activism and dedication to speaking out against injustice; and, of course, your piano skills.

Hayden, I will remember your dedication to everything you do.

Liam, I will remember your ability to stay out of all drama, unless it’s with Ben.

Elaina, I will remember your amicable attitude and insane devotion to your schoolwork.

Will, I will remember your ability to make friends with everyone.

Chris, I will remember your ability to make everyone laugh, like the time you starred as Stanley in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Ben, I will remember how your unexpected comments can make the most boring classes interesting. Not that I have ever been bored in a class at SCC.

Alexa, I will remember your ability to take people under your wing and include them.

Aiden, I will remember how willing you are to help anyone that needs it, and the time you got a bloody nose and it got on me in second grade.

Sammi, I will remember the constant kindness you showed each and every one of us.

Ryan, I will remember your unexpected humor and, of course, “Unwritten.”

Mikey, I will remember you as a respectful and clever person who always finishes what you start.

Cailin, I will remember how diligent your work ethic is.

Dylan, I will remember your maturity and, of course, as my co-most opinionated senior.

Julia, you will be remembered as a bright light to everyone you are around.

Annie, I will remember you as a friend to all, and, of course, your unforgettable 10th grade history-class moment.

Ryleigh, I will remember you as someone who would do anything for your friends.

Molly, I will remember how you grind every day to accomplish your dreams.

Devon, I will remember how impressed I am by the crazy amount of stuff you know.

Patrick, I will remember how your goofball mentality brightens everyone’s day. And, of course, your dedication to keeping Mr. V’s legacy alive.

Maggie, I will remember you as a warm-hearted and friendly person who is always looking on the bright side.

Hunter, I will remember your ability to make light of any situation and your perfect Zoom attendance.

Josh, I will remember your dedication to achieving your goals.

Maya, I will remember you as a talented person, whether it’s art, soccer, track or school. And that I should always carry Tums with me.

Emma, I will remember the way you light up when talking about the things you care about.

And I will remember you ALL as my friends.

While my fear may be being forgotten, you all will have your own fears moving forward. Don’t be afraid to face them head on. If that means starting a business or continuing the family one, moving across the country to a college, being away from family, joining the military, and even the fear of not knowing what you will be doing, just know that you can and will overcome it.

If these two years have taught us anything it is that when we face something scary, extremely challenging and life altering, we can come out stronger for it. It is because of what we have been through that we have learned the value of our friendships, the importance of spending time with our families, and what it means to be responsible and respectful, even when it means we are losing out on something.

While today may mark the end of our high school lives, it is also marking the beginning of the rest of our lives. As you all move on to the next chapter of your life, don’t forget that you won’t be forgotten and that you have had an impact on me.

Congratulations to everyone for what they have accomplished here today. I wish you the best of luck as we move into adulthood. No matter what obstacles you come across, challenges you might face, or fears you may have to overcome, remember this line from the Book of Joshua (Chapter 1, Verse 9), “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for God is with you wherever you go.”

Thank you.


We ‘will accomplish great things’

By Jonathan Ares

Ladies, Gentlemen, Bishop Scharfenberger, Superintendent Virgiglio, Principal Kilmade, Father Vivacqua, Father Ebert, board members, faculty and staff of SCC, parents, guests, and most importantly Class of 2021, good morning. 

Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to thank my family for always supporting and believing in me. I would like to give special thanks to my sister. Bella. You have been by my side through everything and following your example has helped make me who I am today. Your dedication to hard work and doing what is right has led you to so much success and striving to be like you has placed me up on this stage today.

I would like to begin by sharing a bible verse with you all. Romans 12:2, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is — what is good and pleasing and mature.”

Our class exemplifies the message of this verse. We are all different in our own ways, we don’t conform to one set of descriptions or pronouns or even all to the same faith, and yet through our shared experiences here at Spa Catholic, we are the same. We have all endured the challenges of high school together, from the painfully long English tests with Mrs. Crowther to the last-minute lab write ups for Mr. W. Through these difficult times we have each grown, grown as students, as individuals, and most importantly, grown closer together. Not to say that we’ve always gotten along, but at one point or another, each and every one of us has interacted, worked together and made a positive impact on one another and on our community.

Now I will take some time to address how we all got here. Many of you, like me, have been in Catholic schools our entire lives. Whether you came from St. Mary’s in Ballston Spa, like Will, Mikey, Emma, Molly, Sammi and I or any of the other Catholic schools in the area, we have all been lucky enough to have earned a Catholic education. The part of my Catholic education that I value the most is the set of morals that I’ve been taught since I was in preschool at St. Mary’s that has made me the man I am today. I’ve been taught the value of honesty even when lying may be easier. I’ve been shown the value of kindness when times are tough. And I’ve learned the value of faith, not only in God, but in myself and in those around me. I have faith that each and every one of us here today will accomplish great things, not only because I know all of the amazing things our class has already accomplished, but also because I know we all have faith in ourselves and in the people we’ve become.

We are all the products of this school and of this community. The lessons learned in the last four years have shaped us into the people we are today. Not only lessons in the classroom, but lessons about life, and these lessons have prepared us to go out into the world. Isn’t that the goal of high school, to prepare us for what’s ahead? Yes, we all want to get a 100 on every test, and win every sports game, and see our name on the podium every time we play Kahoot. But as we all know now, that’s not what life is all about. Life is about overcoming adversity and facing challenges head on.

That is a lesson I learned best from Coach Masi during my first year of varsity soccer as a freshman. Coach Masi would come to our games and huddle us up before we went out onto the field, to play a team we knew was better than us, always giving us some inspiring words and then breaking the huddle with a Hail Mary. And eventually, we would get to halftime and as per usual we would be losing, and he would tell us that this is our moment, this our chance to overcome the adversity we had to face every time we stepped onto the field. He told us that this is where good teams become great teams. In the moments where all of the odds seem to be against you and yet you find the courage and will to push through and find the greatness within ourselves. Now I don’t remember if we won or lost that game, I’m gonna assume we lost because our record that year was 2-14, but what I do remember is that we all went out onto that field and gave everything we had. We wanted to find that greatness Coach Masi was talking about and I think everyone here has found that greatness. Whether it was overcoming adversity in school, in a job, in a sport, or anywhere else in life, we all made it here today. We are graduating, but this is just the first step in the journey of our lives. We will all face adversity time and time again, but we now know that we can overcome it using the values and lessons we’ve learned here at Spa Catholic.

Thank You.