BOTKINS — Smiles beamed amid a few tears and hugs as 48 students closed one chapter in their lives and are preparing for the future that lies ahead of them.
The class of 2012 at Botkins Local Schools celebrated their graduation on Sunday at the 102nd commencement ceremony.
“Today is the first day of the rest of your lives,” Botkins School Board President Jack Koenig told the students. “Today is your day ... as seniors, you have it all. Celebrate and enjoy this day. As you go forth let me offer you this — don’t sell yourself short. Today truly is the first day of the rest of your life.”
Each Botkins graduate accepted their diploma as they walked across a stage shaking the hand and hugging their supporters, including the Board of Education members, High School Principal Jeff McPheron and Superintendent Connie Schneider, as their parents, family and friends watched and shared in this memorable day together.
Each of the six valedictorians — Hailey Billing, Renee Buehler, Jenna Christman, Paige Cooper, Maria Goettemoeller and Amy Grillot — gave words of wisdom and reflected on the memories of the senior class in between the songs and voice overs in their senior photo slideshow presentation, which was made up of 13 years of memories from the graduating senior class. Fellow classmates and family members watched the slideshow presentation and listened as each valedictorian took the podium.
“As I stand here and look at my classmates, I do not see a single stranger,” Christman said. “I see the people I played with on the merry-go-round in fourth-grade on the playground. ... The people in our childhood are the ones who fill our minds when we think of the ‘good ole days.’ ”
Christman noted whether the students started kindergarten with the class or whether they joined during the class in a later grade, all bonded together.
“All of us have molded into a class that I call a family,” Christman said. “I see no stranger, but a group of people I’ve grown to love and care about.”
As Cooper took the podium, she talked about the memories each person will hold with them years from now.
“At some point in all of our lives we’ve been told to let go of the past,” Cooper said. “Today I will tell you different.”
Cooper said in 20 years from now, the class will hold on to the memories they had in their 13 years of school together.
“Botkins has shaped us into the young individuals we are today,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that it is now that each student will start achieving their maximum potential, and today is a day to celebrate and tomorrow will be the journey to achieve greatness in their lives.
“We’ve grown together as a class,” Billing said. “We are overwhelmed with excitement. There are so many memories.”
Billing said that during the years the class has shared memories, some which were tough and some which were enjoyable. They had shared smiles and had shed tears together.
Grillot talked of the love and support that the community has shown her and her family, as they went through a trying time when her mother, Becky Grillot, died from cancer at the beginning of her senior year. Becky had served as a librarian and secretary at Botkins Local Schools.
“Every day we are surrounded with a different kind of love for each other,” Grillot said, as tears ran down her face. “We all have a way to display admiration for each other. Everyone walked along with my family every step of the way.
“People don’t realize how lucky we are to live in a such a tight knit community,” she said. “The memories we made will always be etched in our hearts.”
Buehler thanked the parents, teachers and administration during her speech.
“Today is our turn to graduate and family, teachers and faculty are the reason we stand here today,” Buehler said. “I want to thank you today on behalf of the class of 2012 for the role you played in our lives.”
Buehler noted the life lessons that the students have learned during their journey will help them accomplish lifelong goals.
Goettemoeller mentioned each person has made an impact on each other’s lives and this is not the end, but the beginning for the senior class.
“We have a had purpose in each other’s lives,” Goettemoeller said. “This is not the end, but it is the beginning of the magnificent display of work for each and every one of us.”
After the valedictorians gave their speeches to their family and friends, each graduate of the class of 2012 walked across the stage one last time as high school seniors and exiting the stage as high school graduates after they received their diploma.
With a turn of their tassel and the toss of their hat, the senior class celebrated as they now enter the next chapter of their lives.
“Let us never forget the memories we made, and the friendships we have,” salutatorian Erin George said concluding the commencements.