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Lake Placid graduation highlights student achievements

Lake Placid High School graduate Marli Damp smiles as she walks to her seat at the North Elba Show Grounds during Friday's commencement ceremony. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid’s senior class graduated high school on Friday, but the students have already started to make their mark on the world.

Lake Placid Class of 2021 Salutatorian Rylee Preston, delivering her salutatory address from a stage festooned with yellow flowers at the North Elba Show Grounds — different from the usual venue of the Olympic Speedskating Oval because it’s still under construction — provided her classmates’ families and friends with a sampling of all they’ve accomplished in the past few years.

“Joose Kahkonen is a miraculous soccer player and was crucial in getting our boys varsity soccer team to the final four in 2017, in his freshman year,” she said. “Lea O’Brien completed 147.5 unaccompanied hours of community service, nearly quadrupling the graduation requirement of 40. Natalie Tavares and I were on the girls varsity soccer team that was named Division II champion in 2018.

“Anders Stanton and Warren Clark were on the Saranac Lake Placid boys varsity hockey team in its first-ever season in 2019, when they won a Section IV title and made it to regionals,” she added.

Preston praised Max Gole for creating his own YouTube podcast; Dylan Bashaw for writing a cookbook, “Sprout”; Jack Lawrence for constructing and donating two benches; Brooklyn Mayberry for completing an early college education year at Clarkson University; and Stanton and Matt Brandes for spending their summer coaching T-ball.

Lake Placid Class of 2021 Valedictorian Samantha Batt delivers her speech at her high school graduation on Friday. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

“They have been nothing short of exceptional,” Preston said of her classmates. “The pandemic did not change that.”

Altogether, 44 students graduated as part of Lake Placid’s Class of 2021. The ceremony was full of personal touches. There was a slideshow of photos of the graduates from when they were babies up until now. Stanton performed an original song he wrote for his classmates. The commencement speaker, LPCSD Class of 2000 graduate and former Fenix International CEO Lyndsay Holley Handler, spent time getting to know the graduates ahead of time and delivered a speech she tailored to them.

The celebration capped off a high school experience that Valedictorian Samantha Batt described as feeling “like an eternity.”

“I know many of us are eager to leave this town, eager to grow up and set out into the glorious unknown, have new friends, have new experiences, and still others are anxious at the thought of a new future,” she said in her speech. “Up until this point, our lives have been planned for us. We now have the freedom to choose, which is both terrifying and exhilarating.”

Batt encouraged the audience to see “human beings first and ideological differences second.”

Lake Placid Class of 2021 Salutatorian Rylee Preston throws up a peace sign after receiving her diploma. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

“Our time on this Earth might be transient and fleeting, a blip in the timeline of an ever-expanding cosmic hole, but we have the power to decide what matters,” Batt said. “I believe it’s the connections we make with one another, even the smallest difference, the smallest kindness.

“The meaning of life is to love and be loved,” she said. “This is what truly matters.”

Anders Stanton performs a song he wrote for his classmates at the Lake Placid Class of 2021 graduation ceremony on Friday. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

Parker Anthony puts up a heart as he walks across the stage to get his diploma at the North Elba Show Grounds on Friday. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

Brooklyn Mayberry receives his diploma from school board member Daniel Marvin during his graduation ceremony at the North Elba Show Grounds on Friday. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)