Harriton's Class of 2012 Graduates with Integrity, Respect, Service
In a 90-minute Thursday night commencement ceremony at St. Joseph’s University’s Hagan Arena, 208 Harriton seniors graduated and received their diplomas.
Leora Haber realized—in the absurd amount of prep time for her speech as co-valedictorian of Harriton High School—just how little our lives are like the movies.
“We don’t get big, romantic gestures,” Haber said to her fellow Class of 2012 graduates. “Instead, we get moments.”
She was probably stealing that from some corny movie, she added. Haber had a bit of trouble making friends as a freshman new to the district, to the point she was scared of making eye contact with most people.
“I considered myself a bit of a loner,” Haber said, putting on sunglasses. “I tended to think of myself as a one-woman wolf pack.”
Laughter began as Haber continued, a la Alan from The Hangover: “As we gathered on the Tombs, I knew you guys could be some of my own. And my wolf pack… it grew by 207 that day. I was alone in the wolf pack, and you all joined in later.”
Next year, she noted, they’d be freshmen again, and know next to no one.
“People, as a general rule, are nice,” she said.
It’s something she learned from strangers in the cafeteria who invited her to sit with them and from teams that more closely resembled families.
Co-valedictorian Shaina Carroll considered how much has changed since they were in first grade—when Bill Clinton was president and Brad Pitt was married to Jennifer Aniston.
Even since they started high school, the first black president was elected and the Phillies won the World Series for the first time in more than 25 years.
Carroll shared a story she remembered from camp about a boy who was walking along picking up starfish and throwing them back into the sea. A man pointed out to the boy there were thousands of starfish and that it wouldn’t make a difference. Throwing a single starfish, the boy responded: “It made a difference for that one.”
“We all have the power to make a difference; don’t be afraid to try,” Carroll said.
The Class of 2012 was the last class to have experienced the old Harriton High School campus and the first class to get laptops in Lower Merion School District’s one-to-one program.
Bryan Ellis, the president of Harriton’s student council in 2012, opened the ceremony by welcoming everyone to commencement exercises.
Four years ago, he was a “lanky, pompous, naïve freshman” with a bad haircut.
“Now, I’m not a freshman,” Ellis said.
Ellis introduced Principal Steve Kline as, among other things, the “prototype for the Most Interesting Man in the World.” Kline has been Harriton’s principal since 2005 and is retiring in June.
The Class of 2012 exemplified Harriton’s three ideals—integrity, respect and service—which were voted on in 2009 when they moved into the new building, Kline said.
“You have set the standard for all Harriton students to follow,” Kline said.
Kline referenced their many accomplishments: raising more than $21,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Eastern Pennsylvania in a Dance-A-Thon, holding an amazingly entertaining Mr. Harriton competition that raised more than $10,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and organizing the school’s first-ever quidditch tournament.
This year, Harriton’s Science Olympiad team won its 15th consecutive state championship and finished sixth at the national competition. Harriton’s speech and debate team qualified for the state tournament for the 14th consecutive year, with 22 students qualifying for states. The girls’ tennis team kept its state championship title for the 11th consecutive year, and the boys’ tennis team won a District 1 championship title. The girls’ lacrosse team qualified for the PIAA tournament games, and Harriton put on a Cappie award-winning production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
“But it’s the little things you do that impress me the most,” Kline said.
He was struck by seeing students invite new kids to sit with them at lunch and watching how genuinely nice students were to each other at Harriton’s prom this year.
“You have made me feel proud and hopeful—precious gifts for my spirit,” Kline said. “We couldn’t ask for more. You are great.”
School Board President Diane DiBonaventuro told parents their new grads have an "uncanny knack for driving you crazy" the summer before college.
"I missed my kids so badly," DiBonaventuro said. "For about a week."
Superintendent Christopher McGinley implored students to take a snow day one day next winter, on him, to make up for the fact they didn't get one their senior year.
He also wished students the best of luck with their dreams and said the world is full of opportunity.
"Being successful in life takes hard work," McGinley said. "Sometimes the hardest part of that work is figuring out what success means."
Graduate Angelica Hunter, who is hoping to become an athletic trainer, said she would miss seeing her friends every day and would miss the teachers who most inspired her. Some of her favorite memories were of volleyball and Mr. Harriton.
Commencement was great too, she said.
“I thought the speeches were amazing—they were really funny,” Hunter said. “It went by really fast.”