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Hilltowns Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 7, 2005

BKW graduates: "Kicking and screaming"

By Matt Cook

ALBANY—For the graduates of Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School, last Saturday’s graduation ceremony was bittersweet. They looked forward to starting a new chapter of their lives and looked back on their time at BKW, sad that they have to leave now.

"We all worked so hard to get here. Now we’re wishing the last years of high school didn’t pass so quickly," said class President Elizabeth Leonard, who gave the welcoming address. "I wouldn’t mind doing it all over again."

Everyone agreed that BKW’s smallness is what makes it special.

"Our tight-knit community makes our school one of a kind," Leonard said.

The ceremony was held in The Egg in Albany, far from the rural Hilltowns where the graduates live and went to school. Graduation speaker Thomas Galvin, a teacher and coach, noted that the graduates should have been glad to be in the air-conditioned Egg that morning, with temperatures outside in the 90’s.

As with past ceremonies, the event began with a sideshow, set to music, featuring pictures of the graduates from their childhoods through the graduation rehearsal. Many of the graduates submitted baby photos, which were displayed along with their senior portraits, eliciting whoops and laughter from the audience.

After the sideshow, the graduates processed to the stage to Edward Elgar’s "Pomp and Circumstance" played by the non-graduating members of the BKW Senior High Band.

As the music played, the graduates converged in the center of the stage, two at a time. Meeting in the middle, some graduates hugged, some put their arms around each other, and some shook hands. Others just stood there awkwardly.

Each student wore a red gown and mortarboard. Students who had averages of 90 or above or were in the National Honor Society wore golden cords, while students who had earned advanced Regents honors wore white cords.

After the processional, everyone stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, and then the ceremony got underway.

Leonard, the first speaker, told the class to remember, "This is not an end for us, but only a new beginning."

She then introduced the salutatorian, Kristopher Geist. Geist also spoke about the future.

"An opportunity of a lifetime"

BKW graduates have a great opportunity in front of them, Geist said, "An opportunity of a lifetime."

He encouraged his classmates to seize the opportunity to make something of their lives, but to also accept greater responsibility. Employers, Geist said, do not look after employees like a school does its students, checking up on every missed day. Geist said he was looking forward to that.

After his brief speech, Geist introduced the valedictorian, Kendall Bunzey.

Bunzey reflected on her BKW experience.

"There are many different types of people at Berne-Knox-Westerlo, and each has his or her own individual qualities," Bunzey said.

Even students who were new to the district fit right in, Bunzey said, like Rachel Jinks, or Salvatore Spinnato IV, whose famous quote was, "If it ain’t a Chevy, it ain’t a truck," Bunzey said.

Bunzey had two lessons for her classmates. The first was, "Believe in yourself."

"Believe in what you’ve learned at BKW from teachers and classmates," she said.

The second lesson was to, wherever life takes you, "Remember who you are."

"Never give up on your dreams and goals," Bunzey said. At the same time, she said, "Be glad there’s one place in the world where everybody knows your name."

"Kicking and screaming"

The next speaker was Galvin, who teaches seventh-grade social studies and coaches several sports, including women’s basketball.

Galvin reminisced about what the graduates were like when they were in his middle-school class.

One time, he said, after viewing a video on George Washington, a student asked if that were really George Washington on the screen. Bunzey, the future valedictorian, responded, "No, if that was George Washington, this would have been black and white."

Another time, Galvin said, he asked Karen Patnode why she didn’t hand in her homework, and she said she had lost it while beating up a kid who said Galvin wasn’t the best teacher in the school.

Switching into a more serious mode, Galvin told the graduates, "No matter how rough it may seem, remember what you’ve learned at BKW."

In closing, he said, "There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few that catch your heart. Pursue those."

Galvin then said he was only the opening act, and introduced another teacher, Gregory Speck.

Speck, who teaches high-school English, took the stage with a guitar in hand. He played a song he wrote himself about the graduates: "We’re Dragging Them Kicking and Screaming Across the Stage of Life."

The song had some funny lines, like, "Some call ’em Hilltown hillbillies/ but that ain’t true/ I’ve seem them rap until they turn black and blue."

He also sang, "They’re the reason my mustache done got all these grays."

By the end of the song, the audience was clapping along and singing the chorus, "We’re dragging them kicking and screaming across the stage of life."

After Speck’s song, Superintendent Steven Schrade handed out awards to the graduates, and then, finally, it was time to present the diplomas.

As high school principal Mary Petrilli read their names, each graduate came forward to applause, accepted his or her diploma, and shook hands with the members of the school board.

After the final student, Michael Yakel, received his diploma, and Petrilli presented the class to the audience, the graduates erupted in cheers, and sprayed Silly String onto each other.

As the band struck up the Alma Mater, the graduates continued celebrating.

After the Alma Mater, the graduates recessed, and everybody adjourned to the lobby for refreshments, pictures, and hugging

Top scholars at BKW

By Matt Cook

BERNE — The class of 2005 valedictorian for Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School is Kendall Bunzey, of Berne. The salutatorian is Kristopher Geist, of East Berne.

Kendall Bunzey

Bunzey is headed to Marist College in Poughkeepsie in the fall.

"When I first saw it, I loved the campus," she said.

She isn’t sure what she wants to major in, though she thinks it will probably be in science or math.

Though, she said, she was strongest at math and science in high school, Bunzey’s favorite teachers were both English teachers: Mr. Matthews and Miss Rys.

In high school, Bunzey was a three sport athlete; she played volleyball, basketball, and track. In college, she said, she plans on playing intramural basketball, and will try out for the track team. Marist is a Division-1 school.

In addition to sports, Bunzey was a member of the Natural Helpers, and was her class vice president.

Bunzey spoke fondly of BKW.

"I really loved the people who were there," she said. "It was small. I got to know everybody."

Kristopher Geist

In high school, Geist excelled in academics and sports and hopes to continue in college.

This fall, he will also be attending Marist College, where he received the Marist Presidential Scholarship. He will be running on the cross-country and track teams for the Division-1 school.

"I guess I won’t be too high on the totem pole. I’ll have to kind of work my way up," Geist said.

Geist was a leading member of the BKW cross-country team that won the state championship in its division.

Though he hasn’t decided on a major yet, Geist said he is considering either mathematics or athletic training.

"A lot of people hate math, but I’ve always kind of liked it," Geist said.

As for the athletic training, Geist said, "I’ve always really been into sports."

Geist said he had a lot of fun studying and running at BKW.

"It’s a small school, but it’s good because everybody knows each other," he said.

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