The time has come for these Falcons to spread their wings and fly.
Firelands High School’s 62nd commencement ceremony took place Friday under a beautiful summer sky as 143 seniors received diplomas.
“These are great kids who care about each other and the school,” said principal Rovert Marver. “I think they’ll be successful in whatever their endeavors are going to be. They’ve set records for scholarship money earned. This will be a class that is forever missed and will be hard to follow.”
Those records entailed 53 students who earned a combined 669 college credit hours before graduation, amounting to $202,000 towards their educations. That was in addition to $881,000 in college scholarships earned by the senior class, according to Marver.
“I’ve been the public relations person in the district for about five years now,” said Jennifer Butchko. “So I kind of came into Firelands with this class. This class is exceptional. We love them. They have a huge variety of goals and aspirations. We have students who’ve committed to the service, which is always an honor for us to watch them go through that process. I feel like this district is special in how it can embrace each kid in their individual choices.”
Class president Emily Rich will study to be a nurse practitioner at the University of Mount Union. She spoke of how high school is over before most students realize it.
“We only arrived here four short years ago and now it’s already time to leave,” she said. “It seems like only yesterday we walked through those double doors for the first time. We were clueless little freshmen who fought with the combinations on our lockers. We struggled to find our next class. I know I was not the only one who mixed up the history and science hallways more than once.
“This is a bittersweet day. It’s the first day of the rest of our lives.”
Salutatorian Emily Novak will major in neuroscience and join Rich at Mount Union.
“Parents, teachers, administrators, and friends have shaped us into the people we are today,” she said. “Recently, Mr. Richard) Reighley, one of my favorite teachers, made a list for our class of the people who helped him become a great teacher and person. That night I went home and made my own list. I encourage all of you to make a list of your own. One of my favorite quotes is from Winnie the Pooh. It says, ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’”
Before valedictorian Julia Ohle heads to Baldwin Wallace to study English, she touched on the variety of paths she and her fellow Falcons will take after commencement.
“For some, high school meant athletics and competing under the Friday night lights,” she said. “For others, leading and representing the agricultural department at state (Future Farmers of America) conventions define their time here. Some excelled in music and the arts. We all share memories of late night study sessions, a dreaded calculus exam, or nervousness before a big presentation. Ultimately, we want to thank all those who make these aspirations possible.”
Superintendent Michael Von Gunten continued the theme of branching paths in his speech.
“Today marks the culmination of a 13-year journey, he said. “For roughly 2,340 days, minus the occasional illness or calamity day, you’ve walked through the doors of our schools. These past years, you’ve taken more control over this journey — selecting classes, extracurricular activities, and having a part time job. Robert Frost wrote in his poem, “The Road Not Taken”: ‘I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence, two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.’”
Graduate Alexis Lough has already received an associate’s degree from Lorain County Community College.
“Initially I took two classes per semester, then that grew into a full-time schedule,” she said. “I have gotten enough credits to receive my associate’s in arts and science. Next year I’ll be going to Ashland University and majoring in forensic biology and then hopefully go on to medical school in a couple of years.”
Lough’s classmates continued to reinforce the notion that there are a countless number of paths to success.
“I’m going to attend Ohio State University to major in agricultural engineering,” said Brandon Palmer. “The thing I’ll miss most about Firelands is spending time with my friends regularly. I want to find ways for farm equipment to produce more crops in the future.”
Katy Tuggle is going to Ohio Wesleyan University as a biology major. “I was involved in a large amount of extracurriculars here in high school so I’ll miss the various groups coming together,” she said. “I plan to a attend medical school and eventually become a neonatologist. So my goal over the next 20 years is to have a family and continuously save newborn babies.”
Johnathon Rovere and Brandan Albu both plan on starting off at LCCC.
“I’ve contemplated going to school here and also the armed services. I just want to serve,” said Rovere. “I want to do something positive with my life that helps people. I’ll miss the silly talks at the lunch table around here.”
“I plan on pursuing an associates degree from LCCC in video game design,” Albu said. “I want to make games that no one has ever made before. Space in games is very underutilized in terms of the actual world built for players and I aim to change that.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media Firelands’ 62nd commencement ceremony saw 143 seniors turn their tassels.