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A-C Valley’s Class of 2024 graduates, celebrates

‘Sand in the jar’
Salutatorian Madison Hurrelbrink hugs Izabela Ielase during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

FOXBURG — Fifty -two graduates of Allegheny-Clarion Valley Junior/Senior High School received their diplomas on Wednesday, May 22, marking the completion of 12 years of schooling and new beginnings.

Each graduate also left with a small glass vial, filled with sand — a memento from veteran teacher Anita Orton, who taught for 33 years and gave the commencement speech.

The sand represents the seniors’ potential accomplishments and the different elements that will make up their futures.

On stage, Orton held an older glass jar of sand, explaining that it was given to her by a sixth-grade student named Jenna at the end of the school year in 2004. Jenna died later that summer, but the glass jar remains as one of Orton’s prized “treasure memories” collected from students over the years.

She listed different items created, worn and exchanged by the Class of 2024 — keepsakes like an origami pig, a binder clip and a metal chain that represented students’ time and memories of high school.

“You guys are my sand in my jar,” she said. “The sand in my jar is all my kids I’ve (taught) in 33 years.”

She noted the different colors of Jenna’s sand, alluding to how each graduate had changed over the past few years, and also stayed the same.

“It’s kind of like that spin you’re in now,” Orton said. “You’re not the kindergartners (you were).”

Madison Hurrelbrink, salutatorian, who will attend Pennsylvania Western University, also addressed her fellow graduating class.

“In spite of our diverging paths, we all have the potential to succeed,” she said. “I encourage you all not to value (success) by the number in your bank account, or the size of your house, but rather, I hope you find your success in relationships you hold and the passions that drive you forward, that may take you around the world or back to our hometown.”

“You only get one run through life, so spend it with the people you truly love, doing the things that bring you happiness,” she said.

Valedictorian Grace Barlett, who decided to apply to Brown University in seventh grade, and has been accepted by the Ivy League institution, echoed Hurrelbrink’s comments on success, and how it is not defined by a singular achievement, but rather in the journey and ambition of reaching one’s goal.

“For all of high school, we were always told to dream big, work hard,” she said. “Some of us aspired to be MLB players and future billionaires. Reality seems to humble all of us.”

“A lot of dreams have changed over the years, and we should not be discouraged to dream big,” she continued.

She named classmates’ accomplishments, and their hard work achieving them.

Outside the crowded gymnasium, a few parents and families watched the ceremony as they listened to the commencement speakers, waiting for diplomas to be awarded.

Jennifer Palmer, of Knox, expressed her excitement at her daughter Caitlyn’s graduation. Her son graduated from the district two years ago, she said.

As Caitlyn considers attending cosmetology school or college, her mother said she is proud of her and the rest of the senior class.

“We’ll be here to support her every which way she wants to go,” her mother said. “We always have, and we always will.”

Her daughter has attended school in the district since kindergarten, she said.

“I can’t believe it’s the last night, but it’s here,” Jennifer Palmer said. “It’s so crazy — it’s surreal.”

This story was updated at 12:40 p.m., May 23 to reflect that 52 students graduated. A previous version of this story incorrectly said that 50 seniors graduated.

Ryan Everett receives his diploma during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
The 2024 Allegheny-Clarion Valley high school graduating class toss their graduation caps into the air after receiving their diplomas in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Grace Barlett hugs commencement address speaker Anita Orton during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
The 2024 Allegheny-Clarion Valley high school graduating class toss their graduation caps into the air after receiving their diplomas in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Madison Fox receives her diploma during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Aliya Adams listens to commencement address speaker Anita Orton during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
The 2024 Allegheny-Clarion Valley high school graduating class listen to commencement address speaker Anita Orton during graduation at the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School Gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Valedictorian Grace Barlett receives her diploma during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Caden Ace walks across the stage to receive her diploma during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
The 2024 Allegheny-Clarion Valley high school graduating class turn their tassels after receiving their diplomas in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Zachary Cooper receives his diploma during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Izabela Ielase receives her diploma during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Madison Fox receives her diploma during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Izabela Ielase receives her diploma during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Brianna Schmidt smiles after receiving her diploma during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Commencement address speaker Anita Orton addresses the 2024 Allegheny-Clarion Valley high school graduating class during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Izabela Ielase laughs during commencement address speaker Anita Orton's speech during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Salutatorian Madison Hurrelbrink addresses the 2024 graduating class during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Valedictorian Grace Barlett addresses the 2024 graduating class during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Brianna Schmidt walks to her seat during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Commencement address speaker Anita Orton addresses the 2024 Allegheny-Clarion Valley high school graduating class during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Madison Fox laughs during commencement address speaker Anita Orton's speech during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Commencement address speaker Anita Orton addresses the 2024 Allegheny-Clarion Valley high school graduating class during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Salutatorian Madison Hurrelbrink walks to the stage to deliver her speech during the Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School graduation in the gym on Wednesday, May 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

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