The past and future met at high school graduation ceremonies locally this weekend.

"Most of us are excited to be more independent," Morris Central School valedictorian Charlotte Rozanski, 17, said Sunday after Friday's graduation with about 25 other students.

The celebratory occasions recognized accomplishments and the benefits of attending small schools, several participants said Sunday.

Classes were small, they said, but graduates have been prepared to enter a changing and diverse world.

The future for students includes a mix of college enrollment, jobs and military service.

Rozanski of Mount Vision said her address to classmates, parents, teachers and administrators reflected on favorite memories and friendships. But the significance of the hour struck, she said, when she and classmates marched into the gymnasium.

"It finally kind of hit me that I'm graduating," said Rozanski, who is headed for the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.

At Morris, students were able to develop as individuals and learn how to "meet new people," she said.

The state projected that 1,880 students would graduate from high school in the four-county area in 2012, according to a 2008 study. The breakdown was 613 students in Chenango, 474 in Delaware, 520 in Otsego and 273 in Schoharie.

About 130 students graduated from Oneonta High School on Saturday morning, Principal Nancy Osborn said.

With state-implemented changes since the class of 2012 first enrolled, students have been exposed to assessment that has helped shaped them, she said.

The OHS class of 2012 challenges the status quo and seeks change, Osborn said, factors that will lead to a "bright future."

"They have the skills, the knowledge and the desire to address change," Osborn said. "More importantly, they know how to apply those skills and knowledge -- that's going to be key."

Daniel Nelson, 17, valedictorian at Unatego Central School, said students learned the value of hard work, commitment and self-discipline.

"The skills we learned at Unatego will help make us stronger people so that we can make a better world," said Nelson of Otego.

Current issues facing the graduating generation include developing alternative energy resources, he said, and working on behalf of human rights.

At Unatego's graduation Friday night, about 75 students graduated, said Nelson, who plans to study physics at the State University College at Geneseo.

Morgan Clark, 17, of Worcester, plans to study at the State University College at Potsdam next year. But the reality of finishing high school wasn't clear until she heard the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" at graduation in the gymnasium Sunday.

"I know I'm going to miss my teachers," said Clark, who was among 20 seniors at Worcester Central School. As a small school, Worcester offered students opportunities to be involved in many activities, said Clark, student council president, and to develop as individuals.

State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, was an invited speaker at the Laurens Central School graduation Friday.

"There is something to be said about the boundless level of support you receive in a true small town and close-knit school district," Seward said, according to a copy of his speech. Coaches, friends, parents, community members and classmates form a support system, he said.

"Each group has its own way of applauding you in your successes, consoling you in your setbacks and cultivating your personalities," said Seward, a 1973 graduate of Hartwick College in Oneonta and a student teacher at Laurens Central School.

"Learning from others has never ended for me," Seward said. "It is a characteristic that you as graduating seniors will realize is essential to success in your lives."

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