Students flip caps in the air.

For the 192nd time in its history, the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District honored a graduating class, hosting Commencement exercises for 136 members of Class of 2022 Saturday morning outdoors at Pop Warner Field. 

Zachary Scime, the senior class president, served as the master of ceremonies. Abigail Fruehauf, Megan Schneider, Casey Waterman, and Austin Yetter performed an instrumental version of the Star Spangled Banner. 

In her salutatorian’s address, Schneider told her classmates to never hesitate in following their dreams.

“Now is the time to search for and find your dreams, set your mind to them, and achieve them. While many of us have plans, there is more unknown in our futures than there ever has been. As we head off in different directions, I would encourage everyone to follow their dreams and when you achieve them, remember to help those behind you.”

Austin Yetter, valedictorian, likened his classmates’ journey following graduation to that of a tree. 

“Our journeys will take different paths,” he said. “Many of us will be attending college, some will go to vocational school, some will go to the military, some will go into the workforce, and some will take some time to figure it out. We’re like one big tree where each of our branches go similar to others or go in completely opposite ways. But these branches come From the same place. … Our leaves connect to the branches that connect to the trunk and lead all the way down into our roots — the roots that were built and strengthened here at SGI. As we branch out and spring new leaves, what we cannot forget are these roots.”

Those roots are strong, he noted, sharing how the SGI family came together after he lost mother to cancer in the 7th grade. 

“If a branch on a tree becomes damaged, the rest of the tree sends its support. The SGI community supported me when I needed it because that’s what we do best. It’s this idea that we must take with us through life – that we can turn the lowest lows into something positive as long as we support each other.” 

Graduates also heard an inspirational message from 1976 graduate, Kate Riffee. Riffee retired from Ohio State’s Department of Athletics in 2015 after 35 years of service, most of which she spent as the director of the Student Athlete Support Services office. 

“I have spent over 40 years working with 18 to 22 year olds as an educator, a counselor and a mentor,” she told graduates. “So, I can tell you one thing: I know you people, I understand you people, and I am in awe of you people. I can tell you that this next phase of your life will be the best.”

Riffee asked graduates to shout out the names of adults or mentors who have had an influence on them. 

“Doesn’t that feel good? Now I want to challenge you to take the next step and let them know and thank them. That level of gratitude will not only make you feel good, but mean the world to that person that even for one instance, they made a difference in their life.”

She concluded, “Take the lessons you’ve learned from your classes, your relationships, your successes, and your mistakes and embrace what comes next. Make it a great life.”

Alexandra Moriarty, senior class vice president, presented the Class Gift to SGI Superintendent James Bialasik. The class will donate a new tree to be planted in the high school parking lot.

“Not only do we hope it will help make a nicer space for people to hang out at, but we hope it will help represent our class to show that our roots will always be at Springville High School no matter how far we blossom or how we decide to branch out,” Moriarty said.

Bialasik, who previously served as high school principal prior to his appointment as superintendent in January, reminisced over the many stories with the Class of 2022. 

“Whether you are someone struggling to leave this place or if you’re somebody who can’t wait to go, SGI is a part of you and it’s a bond that you share with countless others who have walked these hallways, myself included. The building you see over there is just a structure, but those who inhabit the building give it life and give it meaning.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am confident in saying that SGI is a better place because the Class of 2022 inhabited this building. The way you have taken on the challenges that exist within normal teenage years, coupled with the challenges we have all faced over the past 24 months is both impressive and admirable and when I think about this class, I see a multitude of relationships amongst you and I see that to be the source of your strength as a collective group.”

“They say good things come to those who wait, but I believe that greater things come to those who go get it. We are ending one chapter of being students, but never stop being students,” Scime concluded. “Always want to learn more. And so it is time for us to say goodbye. One last, final hoo-rah before the rest of our lives unfold in front of us. … There’s a lot of treasurer out there, so put your Captain Jack Sparrow boots on and find that treasure.” 


Check out photos from the ceremony below.