BONAVENTURE – In a heartfelt ceremony at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, Archbishop Walsh Academy bid farewell to its graduating Class of 2023. Amidst thunderous applause from proud families, friends and school staff, 11 students crossed the stage to fulfill their high school journey.
The 11 graduates eagerly embrace endless possibilities with the skills and values learned here.
Exciting changes lie ahead as both Archbishop Walsh Academy/Southern Tier Catholic School prepare to move to their new home at St. John’s School on North Union Street. The school’s prior location on North 24th Street in Olean – open since the school was built in 1959 – will soon close as the Diocese of Buffalo attempts to sell the property to offset legal costs.
The Class of 2023 will be the last to leave Walsh, a place known not only for academic excellence and faith-led learning, but also as part of the fabric of local communities it has served for decades.
The commencement address was delivered by Lt. Col. Patrick W. Miller – the “hero of Fort Hood” – who shared his own life experiences and emphasized the importance of choices and decisions. He encouraged the graduates to be the best versions of themselves, stressing that life’s path may not always be clear-cut. He urged them to focus on what they can control – such as their character, integrity, presence, confidence and leadership – as they embark on life’s new chapters.
This year’s valedictorian and salutatorian also addressed their fellow grads. Valedictorian Sam Soyke challenged the traditional question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead, she proposed asking, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” Soyke emphasized the importance of character over achievements and encouraged her classmates to focus on becoming kind, dedicated individuals who strive to do good for others.
Salutatorian Parveen Saba thanked everyone who had supported her and her classmates throughout their upbringing. She reminded her peers that their achievements had not gone unnoticed, and that their struggles had shaped them into the individuals they are today. Saba encouraged her fellow graduates to appreciate the journey they have taken, for it’s often more important than the destination itself. She encouraged them to embrace new experiences and take risks to avoid regret later.
Principal Beth Ann Owens, Vice Principal Nicholas Burt and Walsh President Dr. Colleen Taggerty conveyed their heartfelt congratulations to the graduating class. Canonical Administrator Fr. Michael Reyes offered an invocation, and Director of Spiritual Life Mary Lou Plesac received special recognition for her 33 years of dedicated service to Walsh/STCS.
As the ceremony closed, a touching slideshow showcased the graduates’ childhood memories, evoking warm responses from the audience. Each senior also presented a flower to a deserving member of the audience, symbolizing their appreciation for their support throughout their educational journey.
The Class of 2023 – comprising Liam Chapman, Joey Harasta, Payton Howard, Clarissa John, Bobbi Kirkwood, Matthew Kramer, Kai Przybyla, Parveen Saba, Samantha Soyke, Jaimie Thompson, and Kara Valandra – now enters a new chapter in their lives, armed with knowledge, resilience, and the Walsh spirit.
Congratulations to the graduating class, and may their future adventures be filled with joy and success!