NORTH POCONO – June 16th marked an exciting new beginning for the North Pocono Class of 2017. They switched their tassels, looked back on their accomplishments and cheered at reaching graduation.

North Pocono seniors go out in style, with decorated caps detailing their future school or career paths or inspirational and funny quotes.

Matthew Jacob Connors took it a step further by bestowing a Viking helmet on top of his graduation cap, much to the amusement of all who watched him receive his diploma. Hailey Youshock also got creative: a line of LED lights circled her cap.

“Tonight is a time of celebration,” said Principal Ron Collins in an introductory speech.

He honored the teachers and others who helped get the seniors to this point in their lives, putting importance on working together to achieve a goal.

“Class of 2017, no matter where you go, no matter where your life's journey takes you.” said Collins, “Remember these people. We do not succeed alone, we succeed together.”

Chase Notari, Salutarian had the opportunity to do the welcome address for all in attendance.

He pointed out a fear his classmates might have of not living up to the bar set by their predecessors in the Class of 2016. As Notari listed the many accomplishments of his peers, those fears were put to rest.

This year, North Pocono has had a hardworking group of students who excelled in various sports discplines and districts, advanced farther than ever before in their Science Olympiad team, and featured record breaking statistics – including a tennis player who placed third PIAA district singles tournament, weightlifter who broke seven world records.

The school concert, orchestra band made districts, the Junior Academy of Science members were state champions and FBLA team national qualifiers.

“This isn't some simplistic argument over whose class is better, even though we obviously are,” Notari added among a chorus of laughs. “This is about us being a part of and helping to make North Pocono one of the best schools in the state.”

North Pocono has also been named one of America's Most Challenging High Schools by the Washington Post two years in a row.

“The school has been recognized by College Board, the Washington Post and Newsweek as one of America's best high schools,” added Superintendent McGraw later in the evening.

Even more achievements came to light as McGraw built upon what the others had mentioned. Including the four seniors in this class were top academic students in their fields at the Career Technology Center.

The Class of 2017 also earned $4.3 million dollars in scholarship money.

Another matter of school and community pride was the seven students who would be representing their school in the armed forces.

“Through these thirteen years we've grown immensely as people,” said Notari. “We've developed countless friendships, as well as created irreplaceable memories that we will be able to reminisce about for years to come.”

Notari talked about the many hours of service to community and school provided by National Honor Society Students, band, boys and girls soccer teams, and many more.

Tony Zou, Valedictorian, started his speech in an unusual fashion, mentioning his procrastination towards writing his speech and the life lesson he learned from it.

“The rest of your lives are like that white sheet of paper where I wrote my speech,” he stated.

An important factor of his life lesson came from playing a children's toy called Bop-It.

The toy resembles Simon Says in which the player follows directions that increase in speed and intensity.

“Every time I failed I went back and started again and each time I restarted, it made it easier and easier to reach my goal of 100,” Zou said.

Zou attained a high score of 97 – just three points away from the maximum high score. Then he had a string of lower numbers that steadily grew back toward his target.

“Life is a string of defeats all for that one chance of victory,” Zou said. “The toughest part isn't about how well you maintain success, but how you react to your mistakes on the long road toward your dreams.”

Superintendent Bryan McGraw, in his final remarks, mentioned how the Bop-It that Tony Zou procrastinated with was actually his daughter's.

McGraw had been given strict orders by his daughter to not alter her high score of 54, which would be repeated each time the game is turned on until she beat it. Then Tony Zou scored a 97.

“So now I have to drive to Toys R Us, Tony,” McGraw said, “and sit in my car outside my house until I get to 54 before I can walk in my house.”

It was a lighthearted ceremony that bore a lot of meaning for these young adults about to take their steps out into that real world.

It also marked the ending of band director Frank Torquato's time at the school before his retirement.

As the students celebrated their last moments in the high school and flung their caps in the gymnasium, the future never looked so bright.