Seneca Valley senior Phillip Bailey is all thumbs-ups for graduation at commencement exercises Friday evening at NexTier Stadium.
JACKSON TWP — As 556 seniors graduated from Seneca Valley High School Friday night, many looked back fondly on two triumphs the class had this year: beating its rival in football and winning a lip dub competition. On Sept. 13, the Raiders beat their rival, the North Allegheny Tigers, for the first time in more than 15 years. At the end of the game, which was at home, many students stormed the field to celebrate. Several students at commencement named that night as their favorite moment at Seneca Valley. “It was kind of a tremendous feat of our senior year. It was definitely a high point,” said Aaron Matulevach, who was one of the students who rushed onto the field. Football player Dan Miller said, “It was our biggest game of the year, and they were our biggest rival. We hadn't beat them in a long time, so it was a big deal.” In December, the class beat out other high schools in the region and won a $5,000 prize for a lip dub video filmed in the high school that included the entire class. The video was shot in one take with a cameraman following a pre-choreographed route through halls lined with students who all mouthed the words to Imagine Dragon's “On Top of the World.” Despite its large size, the Class of 2014 is close-knit, graduate Gabe Davis said. “I got a good education and made a lot of good friends. By the end everyone really came together and got along well,” Davis said. The speakers Friday night included Principal Mark Korcinsky, Superintendent Tracy Vitale, valedictorian Megan Pudlow, salutatorian Jessica Howard, third-ranked graduate Daniella Ortiz and graduate Zachary Stoner, who was chosen to speak by fellow students through an audition process. Howard used her speech to say that life should be about passion, not money. She shared this lesson not only with words, but also by tearing a $50 bill in half on stage. “Our society tells us that money matters above all else, but that is utter insanity. No amount of money will make you truly happy,” she said. “True happiness can only come from inside you, from you being satisfied with yourself. The happiest people we know are those who are doing what they love.” Afterward, Howard said she decided tear up the $50 bill to do something memorable with her opportunity to speak. “Graduation speeches are all the same. There's no way you can make it non-cliché, so I tried to do something different,” she said. Vitale told the graduates to take their caps with them when they leave as a symbol of their transition from students to graduates. She also advised them on keeping their sense of humility in moments of joy, their sense of humor in moments of struggle and their sense of courage to take on new experiences. “Go out, dare. And take your dreams and beliefs with you,” she said.