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'The world is ours for the taking'

SAYRE — It was a family celebration inside the Lockhart Street Bowl on Friday night as 75 students graduated from Sayre High School.

“This speech is titled ‘family.’ What is family? Good question. Family is something that is never-ending ... a bond for life,” Class of 2019 valedictorian James Esposito told the crowd. “You, my fellow classmates, are my second family. We are forever connected by this school and the memories that we all shared together throughout our years here.”

While the night was about the 75 students getting ready to head out into the real world, it was also about the people that helped them get there, Esposito said.

“My grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and my brother, all whom I had the pleasure of growing up around ... I’d like to thank all of you for molding me into the man I am today,” Esposito said.

“And last but not least, my mother. I know I don’t say thank you enough, but there isn’t enough time to give you the thanks you deserve,” Esposito continued. “Losing a husband of 17 years is a pain no woman should have to feel. Let’s face it, raising two unruly kids is hard enough. You are the strongest person I know ... I hope dad is looking down on us and proud of what a wonderful family you have raised. I love you.”

Salutatorian Stephanie Klovekorn used her speech to talk about something the Class of 2019 first learned in elementary school — stop, drop and roll.

“Although not all of us attended Snyder, I am confident in saying that we all learned one common thing while in elementary school ... if our clothes were ever to catch on fire — stop, drop and roll,” Klovekorn said. “Now, as important as this is to remember, it thankfully did not happen as much as the teachers made it seem so instead I will leave you with some helpful meanings to go along with the phrase for you to carry with you in the future.”

The first lesson was to stop and take a deep breath, Klovekorn told her classmates.

“As we are finally headed into the real world, things may become overwhelming at times. As much as we have all wanted high school to be over, growing up comes with it’s own responsibilities,” she said. “In difficult times, it is important to remember to stop, take a step back and breathe. Then you can regroup, ask for help and tackle the problem at hand.”

The second message was to not be afraid to try something new.

“As many of us have learned, people change, including yourself, but there is nothing wrong with that,” the salutatorian continued. “Now is the time in our lives where we get to define who we are, so try new things, take chances and faith that everything will work out exactly how it is supposed to — the world is ours for the taking.”

Finally, don’t wait to chase your dreams, Klovekorn told the Class of 2019.

“Now, roll ... you can plan as much as you want, down to the second even, but plans can easily become blinders. Staying flexible allows for new opportunities, new friendships and new experiences you may never have imagined before,” she said. “Do not wait for tomorrow or summer or next year to get started on chasing your dreams. Your life is now, so be confident and just roll with it.”

Class of 2019 President Luke Cowder spoke about realizing his time at Sayre High was actually over.

“The amount of times we have all said ‘I can’t wait to graduate’ is too much to count at this point. But now that we’re finally here, I realized how quickly time really passes,” Cowder said. “I’ve come to realize how you have to live in the moment and not wish your time away because before you know it, you’ll look around and won’t recognize the ones around you. So take in life one moment at a time such as now because guys — we did it.”

Cowder closed the 2019 graduation ceremony with a well-known quote from fictional Cornell University graduate and Dunder Mifflin paper salesman Andy Bernard.

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in ‘the good old days’ before you’ve actually left them.”

The “good old days” the class of 2019 had at Sayre High may be over, but their future begins now.

21 identified in massive Valley drug bust

Twenty-one individuals who were arrested this week as part of a massive drug bust operation led by the Bradford County Drug Task Force have been identified — with the majority having ties to Elmira or the Valley.

In total, 26 people, including two juveniles, are being rounded up as part of the operation, which spanned seven months and included assistance from the Bradford County District Attorney’s Office, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and officers from the police departments of Sayre, Athens Borough, Athens Township, Pennsylvania State Police, New York State Police and Elmira Police, as well as the Sheriff’s offices of Tioga, Broome and Chemung counties in New York.

The following individuals have been arraigned before Magisterial District Court Judge Larry Hurley and remanded to the Bradford County Jail in lieu of various degrees of bail on felony-level drug charges and other offenses:

• Billie Jo Lantz, 29, of Sayre.

• Samantha Marion Eberlin-Stiehl, 31, of Sayre.

• Lewis Charles Comstock Jr., 35, of Sayre.

• Kristi Jo Comstock, 29, of Sayre.

• Jacqueline Lee Lucy, 29, of Athens.

• Terri Lynne Finnerty, 47, of Athens.

• Zachary Michael Moore, 21, of Waverly.

• Manley Chapman, 30, of Waverly.

• Miley Delacruz, 26, of Waverly.

• Kirsten Douglas, 21, of Barton.

• Tate Coleman, 29, of Barton.

• Melissa Callahan, 28, of Nichols.

• Matthew J. Corwin, 35, of Elmira.

• Amber Jean Harvey, 32, of Elmira.

• Jordan White, 32, of Elmira.

• Gregory Brown, 23, of Elmira.

• Candace Chase, 37, of Spencer.

• Jeffrey Pearsall, 30, of Troy.

• Jennifer Lee Baldwin, 35, of Great Bend, Pa.

• David Phillips, 29, of Reading, Pa.

David A. Terkay, 62, of Sayre, was arraigned on misdemeanor drug charges and tampering with physical evidence.

According to criminal complaint documents filed at Hurley’s office, Terkay was charged after a report of an illegal handgun being observed at his residence.

Upon executing a search warrant on the residence, officers discovered two BB guns, a pistol-shaped knife, suspected heroin and various items of drug paraphernalia.

The remaining 10 suspects were all arrested as a result of various organized drug sales with confidential informants at locations around the Valley, according to court documents.

The transactions included the sales of various amounts of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, Suboxone and marijuana, court documents said.

In total, law enforcement recovered approximately 15 grams of meth, 29 grams of marijuana, and 15.3 grams and 30 unmeasured packets of heroin and fentanyl as a result of the confidential informant sales.

The operation was conducted from November of last year to May of this year. All of the suspects have preliminary hearings scheduled at future dates.

The Morning Times will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

Flipping into the future: 140 leave Athens High as graduates

ATHENS — After four years of blood, sweat, tears and even the occasional backflip, 140 seniors graduated from Athens High School on Friday.

For Valedictorian Angela Hudock, school memories were all about key little moments.

“(O)ur experiences are defined not by these statistics and numbers but instead by the moments in between,” she said. “The moments where we experienced Athens Area High School, learned lifelong lessons and discovered who we are today.

“High school for many of us was exactly what we expected it would be,” Hudock continued. “It was classes and lunchrooms, lockers and hallways, pencils and calculators, so on and so forth. It was Friday night lights, winter concerts, prom, FFA petting zoos, FBLA competitions, softball diamonds and history club trips.

But every once in a while it was unexpected,” she stated. “Every once in a while, we were struck with brilliance. Conversations spiraled off topic as questions built into class discussions, or for example, when students discovered a miracle of physics — one that became known to teachers as the infamous water bottle flip. Within these walls I learned the value of unexpected knowledge, and that sometimes it is not the answers to the questions that are the most rewarding, but rather the questions you ask next.”

Hudock reminded her classmates to remember the sacrifices of loved ones on their behalf, and to take kindness with them in their futures.

“There are those who make monumental sacrifices and then carry on with life the next day as if it was nothing,” she said. “Because to them, they are simply doing what is right, what must be done. But there are also those who make the little sacrifices each day.

“(B)eing a student at Athens Area High School showed me that you can find kindness in every crack and crevice of this school, ingrained so deep there’s no getting it out,” Hudock continued. “It comes where you least expect it, and always when you need it most. When one thing goes wrong, we have three people there to help support us.”

Salutatorian Lara Nasser wished her classmates success in their futures, but added that the definition of success is in the eyes of the beholder.

“Success does not have a concrete meaning,” she said. “Prosperity in life is not bound to the constraints set by society. Instead, it is defined by the pride we carry for our accomplishments. We will find our own definition of success, one that defines the person we are, and one that highlights our individuality.”

While success is not always clear, each of the graduates has the tools necessary to make their dreams a reality, said Nasser.

“The path to success is not easy and just as the term itself, does not have a clear one that we can all follow,” she stated. “Each of us will go on to create our own paths to success, forged by the knowledge we will continue to learn throughout our lives.”

Finally, Elly Shaff bid her classmates farewell, noting that the ceremony represented a bittersweet time.

Endings are inevitable. A good book ends, a winning season ends, and this speech will end,” she said. “I hope I speak for all of us when I say, although our time as high school students has ended, we will cherish what we have experienced in these past four years and look back fondly knowing that what we have accomplished has prepared us for our new beginning.”

A full photo gallery of the graduation ceremony can be found online at

Athens Township police arrest elusive suspect

ATHENS TOWNSHIP — The Athens Township Police Department announced an arrest of a Towanda man who had eluded police for over a day in a Facebook post on Thursday night.

“We would like to advise residents of the East Athens area that after a lengthy search conducted by numerous officers from the Athens Township Police Department, Mitch Cassidy Johnson, 26, of Towanda, Pennsylvania was taken into custody at a residence on Front Street in Athens Township,” the online public service announcement said.

Johnson had originally fled on foot from members of the department into the woods in the East Athens area early on Wednesday, the Facebook post said.

The suspect fled after officers had arrested his wife and attempted to take him into custody. Johnson was wanted on warrants by the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office as well as by the New York State Police out of Horseheads, police said.

Johnson was taken into custody without incident and subsequently incarcerated in the Bradford County Jail.

Athens Borough police and fire departments as well as the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, Sayre Borough police, Pennsylvania State Police and the Bradford County Public Safety Drone team assisted the Athens Township Police Department in locating and apprehending Johnson.

“We would like to thank the residents of the area for their assistance with providing information in reference to Johnson’s location while the search was taking place,” the statement said. “Without the assistance from the members of the public, this outcome would have not been possible.”