SEE ALSO: York Catholic graduation, 5/25/12

In what he described as his final homework assignment, Nicholas Martin delivered his salutatory speech Friday night to the 98 graduates of York Catholic's class of 2012.

Quoting Dr. Seuss, Martin encouraged his peers to "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind, don't matter, and those who matter, don't mind."

The balmy auditorium was filled to capacity with parents clutching tissues and shirtsleeves in anticipation of their graduate's walk to receive a high school diploma, occasionally trading pride and sentimentality for laughter as memories were recalled.

"Even though I'm not a valedictorian like my mother was, hopefully I've gotten one step closer to overtaking Eric as the favorite son," said Martin, whose words were met with the longest laughs of the evening.

While he may not reach success in those goals, Martin -- who was awarded medals of excellence for his performance in math, chemistry, computer science and Spanish -- shared advice about reaching levels of academic success that will have him packing for Drexel University in the fall, where he will study as a mechanical engineering major.

"Anything and everything can be attained with hard work," he said.

Valedictorian Mackenzie Nelson, who is bound for the University of Pittsburgh to study neuroscience, echoed the sentiment, crediting a "York Catholic work ethic" and sharing inspiring quotes.

She was also awarded medals of excellence for her academic performance in English and biological science.

Sharing a quote from Bill Gates, she said to her classmates, "The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself."

Nelson also shared a J.K. Rowling quote, reminding her peers not to fear failure: "It's impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you are hardly living at all."

She also added inside jokes, which were met with giggles, and shared heartfelt appreciation to the families in the room -- especially her own, thanking her mom for a "powerful sense of determination" and her father for all of her "bizarre, nerdy" interests.

She also thanked her teachers and classmates. "We may not miss the lack of air conditioning, but we'll certainly miss the people.

"Some of us will remain in touch, but many of us will not," she said.

And Nelson reminded the 84th graduating class of York Catholic that it's OK to move on: "We should not mourn what we are losing. Rather, we should celebrate what we have gained."

Harrisburg Bishop Joseph McFadden congratulated the class and offered words of love and encouragement.

"As you begin the next phase of your lives, I assure you I accompany you with my prayers," he said.

Graduating is "bittersweet," Nelson said after the audience left the auditorium.

"Our class is very close. Saying goodbye isn't wonderful, but it's overwhelmed by a feeling of accomplishment," she said.

While she pursues a career in either surgery or research, Martin plans to "invent something, start something, own something," he said.

"I want to do something that will change the world," he said.

And he is too relieved to feel sad, he said.

"Up until now, I've been worrying about my speech. Now that that's out of the way, I feel great," he said. "Until three months from now when I have something new to worry about..." - Reach Candy Woodall at 505-5437 or cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.