More than 100 graduate from Paul Smith’s College

‘We’re fighting for existence’: PSC speaker underscores climate crisis

Natalee Wrege and Paul Smith’s College President Dan Kelting share a laugh at the PSC commencement on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

PAUL SMITHS — Around 122 Paul Smith’s College seniors danced, grinned and fist-pumped their way across the commencement stage on the Great Lawn Saturday on their way to becoming newly-minted Smitties.

Class speaker and senior class president Logan Krahn, a fisheries and wildlife sciences major from Salem, New Hampshire, spoke about how the day was to celebrate the culmination of their lives thus far and appreciate the friends they made.

He thanked his parents for supporting his decisions, even “questionable ones” — like going to school in the middle of the woods. He credited his success to the strong support group of friends on campus, and some esoteric group called the “Goober Suite.”

Krahn recalled his eyelashes freezing together in his freshman year and melting when he got to the dining hall.

“So for anyone who saw me crying in the dining hall, I was not,” he insisted.

Ariah Mitchell, middle, second row, grins big when she realizes that she is the winner of the Ray Agnew Award at Paul Smith’s College’s commencement on Saturday. When the person reading the anonymous bio reached the line “zooming by on her skateboard,” a gasp rang out in the crowd and a student to her left shouted, “I’m sitting next to her!” (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

He said the stories they have as a class will stay with them forever, even if no one believes them.

They witnessed a total solar eclipse, had countless starry nights overlooking Lower St. Regis Lake and even got to witness the northern lights appear on the night before commencement. He also described a visit by the “condom fairy,” skipping class to ski at “the face” and pointed to the traffic cone someone had snuck onto the roof of the library — the “PSC Pine Cone.”

He said they got to learn in a beautiful place.

“In my eyes, whether they were frozen together or not, it was all so beautiful,” Krahn said.

After the ceremony, Krahn said the day was “surreal.” Soon, he’ll be moving to Oregon to take a job as a park ranger. He said he always wanted to work in law enforcement, but wasn’t ensure in what way. Growing up camping every summer with the Scouts, he fell in love with the woods and nature, and said his studies at PSC bridged the two.

Aysia Smith high-fives the PSC mascot on her way into the Paul Smith’s College commencement on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Commencement speaker Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. gave a passionate speech, telling the graduates to fight for their futures.

It was a passionate day for Yearwood, too.

“Today is, by far, one of the best days of my life,” he said. “You have no idea how much of a blessing it is to give the commencement speech at Paul Smith’s College.”

He’s given a commencement speech before and is scheduled to give another in two weeks. But he said none — past or future — would compare to the one he was giving in the present.

“And that’s because my son, River, is in the graduating class of 2024,” Yearwood said to a huge cheer from the crowd. He pointed to his “Hockey Dad” hat and gave a shoutout to the Bobcats.

Bernard Gracy Jr. laughs with fellow Smitties at the Paul Smith’s College commencement on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

He said many things had to align for him to give the speech at his son’s commencement. He had to have a platform. An Air Force veteran and president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus — an influential nonprofit at the crossroads of hip hop and political action — Yearwood said he has been building support for the climate movement.

And his son is also pursuing his path, ready to make a life of his own with his new degree in baking.

Yearwood took a moment to speak for the parents of the Smitties.

“We are so happy you are graduating … and we definitely look forward to you getting a job,” he said. “If I don’t say anything else today, let me say that for my fellow parents.”

This received cheers of “Amen!” from the crowd.

Kaitlyn Button grins with her brand-new diploma at the Paul Smith’s College commencement. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Yearwood recounted the Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-Ins, famous non-violent protests in 1960 when four Black students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat at segregated lunch counters and would not leave when they were refused service.

He said others joined these students, and eventually, the collective action of people of many races got the lunch counters desegregated.

Yearwood said he was glad to hear about the college’s renaming of its cafeteria on Friday in dedication to Stephen “Warren” Morehouse, one of the first employees at the Paul Smith’s Hotel and a Black soldier in the Civil War.

He told graduates they are approaching a “lunch counter moment” of their own.

“We are no longer really fighting for equality the same way,” Yearwood said. “While we have things to iron out, we can still come together as an amazing human race. But right now, we’re not really fighting for equality. We’re fighting for existence.”

A Paul Smith’s College graduate gives the Paul Smith’s College commencement crowd a thumbs-up while receiving a diploma from college President Dan Kelting on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

He said the world needs to “move past pollution” and move past the diseases it causes. He said when they have that “lunch counter moment,” they should look back on commencement day and recall the strength that got them a diploma.

Yearwood said he truly believes better days are ahead, and that the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy and the move away from wars and towards love is possible. He told the graduates to fight for a better world for future generations.

“You were born for this moment,” Yearwood said. “You were created for this time. The world is waiting for your genius, your excellence, for you to rise above to make this world a better place.”

At the end of the ceremony, as sprinkles started to turn into heavier rain drops and students began to walk back through the mass of the cheering crowd — diplomas in hand — one voice rang out loud, amping them up with energy.

Isabella Bartlett graduated from PSC last year, but traveled six hours from her home in Massachusetts just to pump up her friends in the class of 2024.

“One-hundred percent,” Bartlett said. “This place is like a family to me so I came back to support all my friends and family here.”

“Huckleberry” the dog walked the commencement stage with Nichole Demastrie at Paul Smith’s College. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Christian Spagnola looks back at the crowd as he receives his diploma. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Paul Smith’s College commencement speaker, Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., watched his son River get his diploma after speaking to the new Smitties on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Noel Diaz runs through a crowd of friends, family and former classmates with his diploma after the Paul Smith’s College commencement on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Paul Smith’s College commencement class speaker and senior class president Logan Krahn shouts out an esoteric group called “Goober Suite” in his speech on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Lucas Jones gestures at the camera after receiving his diploma at the Paul Smith’s College commencement on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)


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