Four Pleasant Valley High School seniors got a special sendoff with an early commencement on Wednesday night, honoring their accomplishments before they embark on a new life in military service.


While most of PV’s Class of 2020 will celebrate their graduation in July at the Pocono Raceway, Christal Awe, Madison Beerwa, Ismael Cenexant and Deven Venegas will be a bit busy preparing themselves for the armed forces.


Awe, who will be shipping out to Fort Sill in Oklahoma to begin her Army service, studied Health Professions at Monroe Career and Technical Institute, and was a member of HOSA-Future Health Professionals, the National Technical Honor Society, SkillsUSA and the school’s marching band. The young recruit said she is excited to ship out and start her new career.


"I originally started with wanting to go into the Air Force, and I looked at my options, and (the Army) is honestly the best fit for me," Awe said. "My grandpa was in the Air Force, and he passed recently, and this was something he always pushed me to do as an option for education, and to serve my country."


Beerwa, who is headed to Chicago for the Navy, put in four years with the school’s marching band, making co-section leader in her junior year and section leader in her senior year, and also participated in pep band. She anticipates that her service will provide ample opportunities to explore the world and make herself a better person.


"I’m looking forward to the new friendships I’m going to make, and the opportunities to travel different places," Beerwa said. "I want to improve myself, and give myself that confidence boost that I need, that I feel like I need to be a better person."


Cenexant, who is going to Fort Benning in Georgia for his Army National Guard training, is a former PV football player who joined the National Guard in his senior year. He plans to work his way through the National Guard, and potentially explore a career in law enforcement in the future.


"It all started when I was a kid; I used to play a lot of Call of Duty, and I thought it was pretty cool, so it started from that," Cenexant said. "I want to stay in for at least eight years, and hopefully become a (non-commissioned officer)."


Venegas, who is off to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri to start her time with the Army National Guard, studied cosmetology at MCTI, earned an Outstanding Student award for two years, competed in the SkillsUSA district-level competition and placed third in the district-level esthetics competition, and participated in marching band for four years, earning first place at the state competition. She hopes to explore self-improvement in her service as well.


"I want to come out a lot stronger than I was, definitely, and to be part of something that’s a lot bigger than what you are," Venegas said.


The special graduation came about after Awe and Beerwa reached out to principal Matt Triolo to let him know that they would be shipping out before the scheduled ceremony, expressing concern that they would miss such a significant event. Triolo assembled the district’s graduation committee, which came up with the idea to offer these upstanding young citizens an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments.


Dr. Robert Mauro, interim director of human resources for Pleasant Valley and a Navy veteran himself, delivered a commencement speech for the young servicewomen and man, offering a glimpse of their near future in training.


"You will grow, you will learn, you will learn different kinds of things in terms of what you specialize in," Mauro told the graduates. "Bootcamp is only the start of it. It’s to basically get you oriented, because as I said earlier, if you can’t take care of yourself, if you can’t be in control of yourself, then you probably don’t have a future in the armed services."


Mauro, who served 23 years in the Naval Reserve and four-and-a-half years of active duty in Vietnam, said that he was sure this class of four hardworking students were ready for that future.


"I am confident that the four of you can do what you need to do, and I’m proud to just have had the opportunity, in fact, to speak to you. In fact, I’m a little bit emotional over this, because it’s not a small thing," Mauro said.


After a few remarks on the unusual circumstances surrounding this year’s ceremony, Triolo called for a standing ovation for the students, a custom usually met deafening applause from a larger group, though the few dozen present gave a resounding standing ovation to match or beat any stadium crowd.


"Thank you for your positive leadership, thank you for your influence in the Pleasant Valley School District through the years, and thank you for your courage in joining the Army, the Navy, and the National Guard, and please remember: Once a Bear, always a Bear," Triolo said.


Superintendent Dr. Lee Lesisko presented the Class of 2020, offering them a bit of advice before declaring them eligible to receive their diplomas.


"While in the armed services, become inquisitive, investigate ideas, ask questions, get involved, and be a productive member of society. And I want you to always remember, never forget where you came from," Lesisko said.


After each graduate had their opportunity to get their diploma and pose for some photos, they had one more task: ringing the bell that marked the beginning and the end of the school day at one of the predecessor schools that joined to become Pleasant Valley years ago.


The act marked the graduates’ own end to their education at Pleasant Valley, and the beginning of a new life in the armed services, though as the saying goes, "Once a Bear, always a Bear."