The 137th annual commencement ceremony was held in the gymnasium of Wauseon High School on Sunday to celebrate the pinnacle moment for the Class of 2017 and their journey along the way, one repeatedly said to have been paved with excellence, resilience, and pride.
Welcoming all the family, school faculty, and community supporters present were President Amanda Hammontree and Treasurer Timber Kriener. Hammontree explained the short-term studious struggles the class faced.
“Today the WHS Class of 2017 will embark on a great milestone of life. We have struggled through chemistry tests, ACTs, and even fight week our sophomore year to get to this point, but we’ve made it,” she said.
Kriener highlighted the class’ unique struggle of overcoming the grief associated with losing three members of the class over their educational endeavours: Michael Thierry in primary school, Michael Schwartz in 7th grade, and LJ Harris in 10th grade. Seats were reserved in memorial of all three.
“To lose a classmate is to lose a little bit of ourselves. Although they may not be with us physically, they will always be with us in our hearts and our minds…It was an honor to get to spend time with them and make them part of our family that is the Class of 2017,” Kriener said of her late classmates.
An ensemble of senior choir members performed a rendition of “What a Wonderful World” prior to the recognition of valedictorians Sarah Becker and Samantha Stockham by Board of Education President Sandra Griggs.
McKayla Campbell, Jacob Raabe, Aaron Spieles, and Beth Yackee joined Becker and Stockham for recognition as the Top Five Percent of the class. The accomplishment will be joined by a commemorative plaque and induction into the school’s Academic Hall of Fame.
Chosen by, and to speak on behalf of, their class, speakers Aaron Beck and Sarah Becker both reflected on their 13-year upbringings through Wauseon Schools and the future paths in front of them.
“We are facing a new beginning and we get to decide who we are and what we will do, and we shouldn’t be afraid to let our dreams change with us. Channel your inner first grader who wasn’t afraid to say what they wanted and actually thought they could get it,” Becker said, after Beck led in the school’s notorious “Step on the Starter” cheer.
Presenting the accomplishments of the class following the WHS Concert Band’s performance of “Where Eagles Soar,” Principal Keith Leatherman cited the 52 honor students, six students scoring a 28 or higher ACT score, and countless achievements in academics, athletics, the arts, speech, theater, agriculture, and service as being only one indicator of the class’ potential.
Seventy percent of the class plans to attend a post secondary school in the coming years with 40 percent at a four year university and 30 percent going to a community college, technical, or trade school. The graduates have been awarded $441,000 worth of scholarship money, including $61,000 from local scholarships. With many awards offering the potential for renewal, $1.6 million could be earned over the course of four years, according to Leatherman.
Four members of the class have indicated their intent to join the military following graduation: Taylor Benschoter (Navy), Micaela Miracola (Army), Christian Patton (Marines), and Chase Reynolds (National Guard).
“I have great confidence in saying you will be successful in life as demonstrated time and time again through your drive and desire to perform at the highest level…It has been my pleasure to have been your principal for the past four years and I wish each one of you the best of luck,” Leatherman told the class.
In all, 121 students were awarded diplomas and joined the ranks of “graduate” from the Wauseon Exempted Village Schools.
Class Secretary Audry Lane presented the class gift to district treasurer David Fleming for the purpose of designing art on windows looking out into a courtyard in the north hallway, followed by closing remarks from Vice President Payton Lovins.
“Our experience and successes would not have been possible without the tremendous support of those around us. [We] would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the school administration, teachers, janitorial staff, parents, and community members for all the support and encouragement over the years,” Lovins said.
Reach Cory Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org