BOLTON LANDING - That ever-present link between the Bolton community and local students was a prevailing theme of the Bolton Central School graduation June 25.
As is traditional in the lakeside town, hundreds of people packed the gymnasium for the ceremony.
Those attending were not only relatives and friends, but dozens of community residents who may not have known the students personally, but were there to pay tribute to the youths and give them a communal send-off into the next phase of their lives.
Valedictorian Matt Peterson noted such a community spirit when he recalled that he'd shared good times with many of his fellow classmates since first grade - and for many of his classmates, this bond extended back to preschool years.
He recalled that as a newcomer to town in the first grade, he ran into Harry Caldwell at a school bonfire.
"And so began our friendship and my love for Bolton Landing," he said, noting he subsequently developed friendships with others, including Conor Smith, Grace Cady and Dom Pfau.
"So many people along the way helped shape this class and me," he said. "So 'Thank You' to anyone who ever read to me, to anyone who ever sang to me, fought me, or looked out for me."
Salutatorian Jacqueline O'Donnell also explored the community bond and aspects of growing up in a small town.
She said if any of her classmates were apprehensive or fearful of experiencing life outside such a close, supportive community, they need to overcome their trepidations.
"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face," O'Donnell said, quoting Eleanor Roosevelt.
She urged her classmates to grow intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.
"We should seize every opportunity," said O'Donnell. "If we stay on the narrow path, relying only on what we know, we will not gain experience, and thereby limit our knowledge."