Allegany-Limestone graduates urged to guard their freedom of speech

Allegany-Limestone High School Principal Cory Pecorella leads graduates to their seats during Friday’s outdoor ceremony at the new turf field.

ALLEGANY — Allegany-Limestone High School graduates of the class of 2020 were told Friday that America is facing a crisis that, if allowed to continue, will be extremely detrimental to future generations.

Those words of advice from keynote speaker Matt Bouch, a Chicago homicide detective and Allegany-Limestone alum, were among multiple messages delivered to half of the 107 graduates during commencement exercises held outside under sunny skies in the school’s new turf field.

The ceremony, which had been quickly planned after administrators learned the gathering would be permitted by the state thanks to the lessening of coronavirus pandemic restrictions, included handing out diplomas to half of the graduating class during a 5 p.m. gathering.

A second ceremony was held for the remaining half of the graduates later in the evening.

Despite the restrictions, the graduates and their families present said they were grateful to have the opportunity to gather outside together one last time during their school career.

In his keynote speech, Bouch, a 1997 graduate of the school and U.S. Army veteran who served in the Middle East, told the graduates that as a Chicago homicide detective he has dealt with the darker side of society. More recently, however, he said there are very grave issues faced by the country.

“Our freedom of speech and due process are under assault in this country and it should be alarming to all of you,” he told the graduates, apparently referring to social media backlash against anyone who questions or is critical of Black Lives Matter protests. “The rush to judgement, the attack on people’s thoughts and opinions — when different from social and mainstream media — is setting an troublesome precedent.”

Bouch further advised the graduates to do their own research and to not believe “what a news anchor tells you.”

He continued, “Facts are what you research with an open mind using information from competent, informed and non-biased sources to form an educated opinion. Being the loudest person in the room doesn’t make you right, it just makes you arrogant and annoying … your class, your generation can change this troubling trend.”

During her address to her fellow graduates, Madison Smith, valedictorian, told the group that the ceremony was the most “unique graduation at Allegany-Limestone. ... We have been through the good times and the bad times, and the very bad times.

“Who would have thought we would have been forced to stay home during our very last semester of high school,” she said. “I don’t know about you guys, but everything that has happened has really made me realize the things I take for granted.”

Salutatorian Ronald Jakubczyk shared similar sentiments, noting the pandemic’s shutdown of school forced him and the other graduates to learn many things about themselves. He said distance learning also taught him to balance many things, such as time management and school work and home life.

He also lauded the class for coming together in a show of generosity when they opted to donate $8,000 that had been earmarked for their class trip to the COVID-19 Relief Fund through the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation.

Other graduates who gave comments on the event prior to the ceremony included Malachi Cleveland who said he thought it was “amazing that we even can have graduation during this” pandemic.

“A lot of people didn’t even get to have one,” Cleveland said.

Another graduate, Nyaelle Clapp, said she, too, was “extremely happy” the class got to have a graduation.

“I thought it wouldn’t happen at all,” she admitted. “I thought quarantine would have been like, ‘You don’t get to finish the school year or graduate.’”

Mychal Berlinski said the graduation was much better than if it had been done online.

“After all the hard work that all of us put in, it would have been kind of a shame if the covid thing came up and took it all away from us,” Berlinski commented.

The following seniors are graduates of the class of 2020 at Allegany-Limestone High School:

Mychal David Berlinski, Benjamin Alan Besok, Dylan Patrick Booker, Blaze Michael Bunker, Anna Grace Burroughs, Thomas Charles Callen, Sean William Campbell, Chad Joseph Carlson, Gabriella Kathleen Carmona, Joshua Daniel Carter, Nyaella Amira Clapp, Malachi Cleveland, Kyle John Colburn, Liam Thomas Coulter, Trinity Lee Cramer, Ethan Paul Cross, Casey John Curran, Taylor Paige Davis, Grace A. DeCapua;

Ryan James Dixon, Jacob Vincent Dombeck, Kaleigh Elizabeth Donavon, Thomas James Dorenkamper, Sarah E. Eddy, Cyrus Thomas Edwards, Nicholas Ryan Ensell, Rianna Kay Everetts, Ryleigh Nikole Everetts, Olivia Erin Fitzgerald, Sofia Jeane Fortuna, Abbey Mae Gardiner, Dylan Matthew George, Julianna Rose Giannicchi, Benjamin Gulio Giardini, Emily Meagan Giardini, Gia T. Giardini, John William Giardini, Samuel David Giardini;

Bradic Gilman, Daniel James Graham, Dustyn J. Green, Kyle A. Griffin, Natali Gutierrez, Blaze David Harrison, Gavin M. Hatch, Tierney Maria Hemphill, Kaitlyn Cynthia Higby, Cassandra Marie Hurd, Patrick Micheal Ireland, Cierra Marie James, Timothy W. Jedrosko, Nicholas Robert Jones, Madison Lee King, Mikayla Lynn King, Morgan Joyce King, Abigayle April Neely, Bridget Sharon Panebianco, Kyle J. Herbert, Ronald G. Jakubczyk;

Jason T. Karroach, Nicole Kauffmann, Ryan Joshua Kellogg, Griffin Paul Klice, Logan Christopher Klice, Trevor James Kohn, Chloee Jean LaCroix, Emmy Li, Nicole Marie Marra, Amelia Rose Mascioni, Magnus Erikson Mason, Emma McCarthy, Molly Erin McClelland, Manual Donny Salvatore McClary, Shane David McMullen, Jonah Christian Meacham, Katelynn Violet Miller, Brock Thomas Moshier;

Gus Bernard Napoleon, Megan Grayce Neamon, Kimberly Marlene Nevin, David Dean Parris, Wesley Thomas Quattrone, Cameron Rose Riordan, Liberty Maeve Rodgers, Margaret Renee Ronolder, Madison Lynn Smith, Orion Maximus Snowberger, Juddson Thomas Spako, Alyssa Lynne Spring, Daniel Raymond Stayer, Peter Jacob Stayer, Bryant Austin Talbot, Shilpa Rani Thandla, Aaron Michael VanDamme, Mallory Voegelin, Maura Marie Vossler;

Seth Alan Weinman, Lillian Elizabeth Weise, Alan Michael Wildfire, Jordyn Taylor Wiley, Megan Nicole Williams, Michael Andrew Wolfgang, Bradley William Wynn, Colin Louis Yorke, Allyson Lynn Youngs, Jordanne Emily Youngs and Hannah Marie Zink.