Goodbye to the Class of 2024

The 140th annual commencement for Gowanda Central School District took place Friday, June 21, 2024, at Hillis Field. The sixty members of the Class of 2024 received their diplomas in front of hundreds of loved ones and community members on an unseasonably warm start to summer.

The graduates strode onto the field as the high school band, under director and music teacher Jacob Swanson, played “Pomp & Circumstance.” Senior class representative Autumn Pupo led the Pledge of Allegiance before the band played the national anthem.

Superintendent Dr. Robert B. Anderson began the ceremony by reciting the land acknowledgement, which notes Gowanda CSD resides on the ancestral lands of the Haudenosaunee which includes the Six Nations of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora.

“As you stand here today, you can look back with pride at the countless hours of study, the late nights spent poring over textbooks and the challenges you overcame to reach this significant milestone, the many, many other memories,” said Anderson. “Your perseverance and tenacity have brought you to this day and you should be immensely proud.”

Principal Rebekah Moraties noted that the Class of 2024 is made up of incredible people.

“Particularly since you have succeeded against the backdrop of challenges throughout your high school career,” said Moraites. “I have to tell you that I am so proud, so delighted and extremely impressed by your collective achievements.”

Rickey Armstrong Sr., president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, was welcomed for congratulatory remarks.

“What waits for you at the end of this stage is your future,” said Armstrong. “Your parents, families and teachers have had the gift of time to watch you grow and become remarkable young women and men. We are now excited to see what time holds for you.”

Salutatorian Madilyn Pawlak, who is going to Cornell University to study animal science, addressed the crowd.

“I am deeply humbled by the journey that has led us to this moment. From when we first stepped into the doors of the elementary school as little kindergarteners, our backpacks too big for our backs, we have been dreaming of this day and here we are in what seems to have been a blink of an eye,” said Pawlak. “Don’t be afraid to take chances. Flaws are what make humans, humans. May our paths be filled with success, fulfillment, and endless possibilities.”

Valedictorian Christina Wilder is headed to Hilbert College to major in forensic laboratory science. She began her speech by acknowledging she’s not the most outgoing person, but came prepared to make a few important points: being the loudest person in the room does not mean you’re the most correct, everyone thrives in their own unique environment, and know what you’re comfortable with, but don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.

“There are plenty of people out there who are on the quieter side who are no less correct or capable than their louder, more outgoing counterparts,” said Wilder. “And who knows, maybe one day you’ll find yourself giving a speech in front of a bunch of people, feeling as uncomfortable as can be, but still proud of yourself for actually going through with it.

The high school chorus then performed “The Road Home,” led by director and teacher Robin Smith.

Senior class president Ella Luther introduced keynote speaker Susan Rebmann, a member of the Class of 1980 at Gowanda and a former district employee and active Boosters supporter. She has a dual master’s degree in Public Administration and Educational Leadership and holds a New York State certification for School District Business Leaders. She retired in March as manager of Financial Services and Applications at Erie 1 BOCES in West Seneca. Her family includes husband Russ and their children Scott (Amy), Jennifer Dan York) the late Lindsay Rebmann.

“When you leave here today and if there’s only one word you take away from my speech, remember the word resilient,” said Rebmann. “Strengthen your resilience, responding and growing from your life’s challenges and experiences…. Finding that inner strength to overcome is very important. You make it through by being resilient.”

The presentation of diplomas was led by Max Graham, president of the Board of Education, Superintendent Anderson, Principal Moraites, senior class advisor and teacher Melanie Schott, and administrative assistant Hayley Wilkins. After all the graduates received their diplomas, senior class treasurer Aubrie Heron and class representative Autumn Pupo led the turning of the tassels.

The Class of 2024 then joined their loved ones in the stands for photographs and additional celebrating as the band played “Pomp & Circumstance.”


Of the 60 seniors in Gowanda’s Class of 2024, 27 are graduating with a Regents diploma, 10 are graduating with a Regents and a Career & Technical Education endorsement, 18 are graduating with an advanced Regents degree (three with honors), 18 are graduating with a seal of civic readiness credential and three students are graduating with the New York State Seal of Biliteracy. Forty-four are enrolling in two-year or four-year colleges, three intend to serve in the armed forces and 13 are entering the workforce.

Link to 2024 graduation program: 


Grads at Hillis Field


Smiling students in Native American dress


Band plays


Walking onto the field

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