By Mary Fox

“Baccalaureate is an ancient practice which evolved from a celebration for lives dedicated to learning and wisdom,” said Pastor Wm. L. Kay to the Ellicottville Central School graduating Class of 2013 at their baccalaureate service, Friday, June 21 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

Graduates were addressed by clergy of local churches, Father Ron Mierzwa of Holy Name of Mary Roman Catholic Church, Father Michael Lonto of St. John’s  Episcopal Church and Pastor Wm. L. Kay  of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, as well as ECS Superintendent Mark Ward, School Board President Roger Spell and Class Advisor Timothy Bergan. Patricia Waldron, also a class advisor, led the Senior Chorus.

Character was a recurring theme of the day.

“Successful people demonstrate strong character even if no one is around to watch,” said High School Principal Robert Miller. “You will be judged, sometimes fairly sometimes not so fair, not only on your education but by your character.”

Following the service, the Class of 2013 and their parents were served breakfast provided by area churches Holy Name of Mary, St. John’s, St. Paul’s and the United Church of Ellicottville, Solomon’s Porch Ministries, and the United Methodist Church of Great Valley.

That evening, commencement was held in the school’s gym.

“This will be the last class graduating from this gymnasium as it now is,” said Ward.  “Next year we hope to have graduation in our new gymnasium/auditorium.”

Salutatorian Caitlin Toth addressed the assembled parents and families with the message to her classmates to “stop and say thank you to parents, school and community that have supported us and gotten us here today.”

Toth has been recognized as a top high school senior for outstanding achievement in academics, athletics, leadership and service. She is planning to major in biology and minor in communications and journalism at SUNY Geneseo this fall.

“Our lives are changing,” said Valedictorian Rachel McMahon-Eagen, “in different and amazing ways. Don’t let fear keep you from striving for what you want.”

McMahon-Eagen’s numerous awards include a full tuition, Lemmon Family Scholarship at Westminister College in New Wilmington, Pa., where she will major in biochemistry to pursue a career in medicine.

That evening, 85 awards and scholarships were given by the Board of Education, individuals, organizations, businesses and schools of higher education.

Of the 47 graduates of the Class of 2013, 40 percent earned an Advanced Regents Diploma and

81 percent will be attending a school of higher education, with 20 percent of these on awards and scholarships amounting to $600,000.

“Dare to dream, Dare to fly, Be the one to touch the sky, Set my spirit free …” sang the Senior Chorus.

“We are leaving! We are ready for the real world,” said Class President  William Murphy as Class Vice President Alex Steinbroner led the group in the traditional turning of the tassels from right to left on their caps, signifying  the ending of this phase of their education and the beginning of new challenges.