Four years at JHS add up to success

JOHNSTOWN – Math and science, but only as they apply to life lessons, were on the minds of student leaders giving speeches at the Johnstown High School Class of 2013’s graduation ceremony Saturday at Knox Field.

The boys wore purple and the girls wore white as the procession of 142 graduating seniors went from the back of Knox Junior High School to the middle of the field.

In the main student address, Valedictorian Elizabeth VanDenbugh used calculus as the main theme of her address, telling the 142 graduates and their families gathered that “almost everything” in math can be explained with calculus.

“It is a great tool to possess in many types of science and other levels of math,” VanDenbugh stated. “The best part of calculus is how it takes something whole and complex and breaks it up into infinitesimally small segments of time. Life can be broken up into the smallest units: a memory, photograph, a family tradition or even a graduation ceremony.”

VanDenbugh went on to note how in calculus, there are anti-derivatives to solve problems. She said integration is the process of taking an anti-derivative by simply adding up all of the miniscule sections of the function, and suddenly, the function is “whole again.”

She said no matter how many steps away from the original equation a problem has progressed, integration brings it back to the start.

“Now, you might be asking what all of this math talk has to do with the Class of 2013,” VanDenbugh said. “Well, my hope is this: that we can step away from JHS knowing how to examine every second of life and appreciate it for what a tremendous gift it is. My prayer, however, is that we will soon learn how to recognize the sum of all the parts. We will see that one single moment does not define a lifetime and that sharp drops and angles eventually smooth over. We will able to look back at our line’s journey and see the progression through life and time that got us to our present state.”

Also speaking at the school’s 132nd commencement on a warm, early summer day was Salutatorian Helaina Stergas. She also used numbers to illustrate how far the JHS Class of 2013 has come.

“We’ve made it through 2,340 days of school or 1,900 hours of classes,” Stergas said. “We’ve been assigned 2,600 hours of homework. We’ve taken 700 tests and frustrated at least 32 teachers. If you think about all that, and all the time spent on projects and essays along the way, you’ll realize it took a lot to get here.”

Stergas added, “I know everyone has big parties and celebrations awaiting, but when it comes down to it, I don’t think enough people really stop and appreciate just how crazy it is that 13 years of our lives – which have revolved around the same city, friends and school hallways – is coming to a close. It’s all because we made it happen. We buckled down and got to work.”

Class President Alexis Swatt, in an address titled “Ya Just Gotta Believe,” argued her class is exceptional.

“There have been recent projections made by scientists and theorists that claim that our generation is to be the first to not continue or exceed the successes made by the elder generations,” she said. “I would like to kindly remind these scientists and theorists that they probably haven’t met someone who belongs to the JHS Class of 2013.”

Michael Anich can be reached by email at