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54 graduate in Tupper Lake’s Class of 2024

Rachel Sorensen celebrates with the Tupper Lake High School Class of 2024 at the school’s graduation ceremony on Friday. Fifty-four students graduated in the TLHS Class of 2024. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

TUPPER LAKE — A class of 54 students graduated from Tupper Lake High School on Friday with laughter, emotional embraces, soap bubbles and memories of their years growing together.

Class Treasurer Liza Crouse said the coronavirus pandemic tried to “hijack” their education, but they came out on top. She said this was because of all the support they got from the school staff, their families and each other.

Crouse quoted Eve 6’s song “Here’s to the Night”“Here’s to the nights we felt alive/Here’s to the tears you knew you’d cry/Here’s to goodbye/Tomorrow’s gonna come too soon.”

High School Principal Amanda Zullo said it was “a privilege and an honor” working with these students for her past two years in the position. She said she was impressed by their resourcefulness and kindness, and that they taught her a lot.

Class President Rachel Sorensen recalled being a freshman and being impressed with the seniors at TLHS. Now, they were the seniors.

Logan Flagg gives Tupper Lake Central School District board President Jane Whitmore a big hug at graduation on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

“Soon, we will be telling the stories of our good old days back in high school,” she said.

Looking back on the past four years, Sorensen said she was overwhelmed by memories and shared some which she had gathered from her classmates.

She finished with the words of Natasha Bedingfield from the song “Unwritten”“Live your life with arms wide open/Today is where your book begins/The rest is still unwritten.”

Salutatorian Griffin Shaheen said graduation marked the close of a chapter of their lives.

“Don’t be sad that your time here is over, be happy that it happened,” Shaheen said.

Tupper Lake High School graduate Liza Crouse, left, hands flowers to TLHS science teacher Mikayla Brockway at graduation on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Emelia Foote was the valedictorian and did not attend the ceremony.

Another ‘graduate’

With graduation being one of his final official acts as district superintendent, Russ Bartlett carried on his tradition and took one last selfie with the graduating class.

Tupper Lake High School Salutatorian Griffin Shaheen smiles after blowing bubbles at a photographer. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

He said after doing the math, he figures he’s been going to school since 1973 and asked a favor of the seniors.

“I’m tired. I want to graduate,” Bartlett said. “Would it be OK if I graduated with you this year?”

Most seniors said “yeah,” but some said “no,” even though he had warned them he would still be superintendent for eight more days.

Bartlett said he is well into his second generation of students at TLCSD and looked back on the best and the worst of his speeches as high school principal and district superintendent over the years, the stand-outs and the ones which make him cringe.

Though he had said he would use the artificial intelligence writing program ChatGPT to write his speech this year, after using the program to prompt his speech theme last year, Bartlett said the AI detection software GPTZero is getting pretty good and he didn’t want to risk it.

Emma Daniels prepares for the Tupper Lake High School graduation on Friday. Daniels' cap was decorated with caution tape and a bloody handprint because she plans to study forensics in college. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Bartlett spoke about things he would change in the past — photos of him playing Guitar Hero in a dress, tattoos and sporting a mullet in the 1980s.

“The mullet’s making a comeback!” one student yelled.

Bartlett rubbed his smooth head and said: “Can I do anything about that now?”

He said he wanted to correct a speech he gave in 2015 where he said there’s no secret to happiness. There is, he said. If one can go to bed at the end of each day feeling good about how they lived that day, that’s the secret.

Bartlett told the students that every day they should learn something new about someone else, take a moment to lift up somebody who needs it, support someone struggling with something they know nothing about, see something from someone else’s perspective and hold to their beliefs even if it’s not popular.

Michael Baker sings the Tupper Lake High School class song, "Have It All" by Jason Mraz at graduation on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Actions speak louder than words

Karin Brunet, a former L.P. Quinn Elementary School music teacher, came back to be the guest speaker at graduation this year.

“She was a major influence on us all,” Senior Class Vice President Raegan Fritts said. Fritts had a solo in the class song earlier, singing “Have It All” by Jason Mraz.

Brunet said she wanted to remind students of the importance of advocating for themselves and their ability to do great things. She knew she wanted to be a music teacher since she was in seventh grade, inspired by her teachers.

But in college, she said professors pulled her aside with concerns about how “shy” she was and that she “seemed to lack confidence.”

“The concerns jolted me. What was I supposed to do now?” Brunet said.

She wondered if she should quit. But she said this was “imposter syndrome.” The more she thought about it, the more certain of herself she became.

Brunet recalled that NBA legend Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

“He didn’t give up. He spent more hours on the court,” she said. “When The Beatles faced rejection from four record labels in a row, what did they do? They met with a fifth label.”

It was painful at times, but through soul-searching, hard work and sheer determination, she said she had the courage to keep going.

“Ultimately, I decided that I wasn’t going to be talked out of being a teacher just because someone else said so,” Brunet said.

And she learned how to command a room. Fittingly, she ended her speech with a bold a cappella rendition of a few lines from the song “Louder than Words” from the musical “Tick Tick Boom”“Cages or wings?/Which do you prefer?/Ask the birds/Fear or love, baby?/Don’t say the answer/Actions speak louder than words.”

CORRECTION: This article was updated to include the valedictorian, Emelia Foote, who did not attend the ceremony. Griffin Shaheen was listed as the valedictorian in the previous version. He is the salutatorian. The Enterprise regrets the error.

Raegan Fritts and Shae Arsenault sing the Tupper Lake High School class song, "Have It All" by Jason Mraz at graduation on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Tupper Lake Central School District Superintendent Russ Bartlett takes a selfie with the Class of 2024 at graduation on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Livia Meade grins as she receives her High School diploma. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Michael Corneau grins as he receives his Tupper Lake High School diploma from TLCSD board President Jane Whitmore at graduation on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Natalie Marconi grins as she receives his Tupper Lake High School diploma from TLCSD board President Jane Whitmore at graduation on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Zoe Abbott blows bubbles with fellow Tupper Lake High School graduates on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Galen Halasz)

Karin Brunet, a former L.P. Quinn Elementary School music teacher, came back to be the guest speaker at the Tupper Lake High School graduation this year. (Enterprise photo — Galen Halasz)

A Tupper Lake High School graduate wears a cap that reads, “Leave a little sparkle wherever you go.” (Enterprise photo — Galen Halasz)

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