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Making wise choices and the most of one’s time were reoccurring themes during Wapakoneta High School’s commencement on Saturday.
During the ceremony, 190 students met the necessary requirements to receive their diplomas, with 65 earning honors diplomas and 24 recognition as graduates of distinction.
Reflecting on the life of the beloved Wapakoneta High School Assistant Principal Jason Kline, who died from cancer in 2010, honors speaker Michelle Mosler, who also was his sister-in-law, pulled from pieces of the speech he gave when he addressed his high school class in 1996.
Quoting from a popular movie at the time, “Forrest Gump,” Mosler repeated one of its key themes, “Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”
Mosler said while not all things in life are within our control, many are.
Kline’s life may have been cut short at 33, but he achieved his dreams of being a principal, coach, husband and father and it wasn’t by accident. They were goals he set out to accomplish and became an inspiration to those around him.
He always said, up until the end, that “Every day is a good day.” Mosler encouraged her classmates to approach life the same way and when faced with a difficult problem, remember what the math teacher said then as well, “Find a way.”
“There are opportunities all around,” Mosler said.
Like Kline, she asked her classmates to remember the two deceased members of their class, whose places were marked by empty chairs and flowers. Jason Strauser and Jesse Doseck also lost battles with cancer before they could graduate high school.
Following the trio’s positive example, Mosler reminded fellow graduates to always do what’s right, help others, listen, pray, love, do their best and trust God.
“Be the next Jason Kline,” Mosler encouraged. “No matter what life holds, find a way to make every day a good day.”
Honors speaker Chris Schwartz’s address to fellow graduates was focused on choices, something his father used to remind him and his siblings of often growing up.
“My dad said it so often, I tuned it out. I had heard him say it at least 1,000 times,” Schwartz said. “It wasn’t until recently I realized he was right.”
He said they would all face important choices in their futures — what to do after high school, who to marry — and each choice has an impact.
“It may seem insignificant at the time, but they all add up and can have a huge impact on life,” said Schwartz, who as class president also presented the senior class memorial — a mural of the school logo above the front entrance to the high school.
He challenged classmates to think about every choice they make, no matter how small they may seem, because life really is all about choices.
Other honor speakers, Ryan Kremer and Joe Jose, encouraged fellow graduates to find what they excel at and pursue it.
“Success can be measured in different ways,” Jose said. “The key is to strive to be the best at what you do. Work hard, be credible.
“Take advantage of every moment and use every moment well,” he said. “Don’t wait until the last minute. You’re only cheating yourself.
With no one guaranteed tomorrow, Jose said every moment needs to be snatched up and seized.
Kremer told classmates they can only be as good as they think they can be, so they need to be their best selves. Hard work is not something to fear, but something that leads to success.
Highlighting a variety of successes by the class of 2012 with the academic team, bowling, wrestling, track, and now baseball, Kremer said obstacles are a part of life that must be overcome.
He encouraged classmates to use the momentum they have started as they go about their different paths in life.
“Whatever you are, be a good one,” Kremer said repeating an Abraham Lincoln quote his family has hanging prominently in their home.
Quoting Woody Allen, honor speaker Mallory McDevitt, who couldn’t attend graduation because she was in Lexington for the regional track meet, said 80 percent of success is just showing up, but the class of 2012 has always done more than that.
“We not only showed up, but went the extra 20 percent and excelled,” McDevitt said. “No matter where we go, we will always be Redskins and members of the class of 2012 and when we show up, we can‘t be stopped.”
Wapakoneta High School Principal Aaron Rex told students to celebrate today what they have accomplished, reflect on 13 years of memories, achievements and contributions to the school and community.
After the celebration, he told them to begin preparing for the next step.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” Rex said quoting Martin Luther King Jr. “My wish for you, is that you achieve all you dream of, and live happy lives filled with love and respect.”
Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner encouraged the class of 2012 to make a positive different in the lives of their families and communities.
Apollo Career Center Superintendent Judy Wells told the graduates that while life is all about choices, it is also about expectations, and they expect great things from them.
“Everything is up from here,” Wells said.
Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education President Willie Sammetinger advised the graduates to remember where they have been and take with them what they have learned.
“Continue to be a part of something in the community when you settle,” Sammetinger said. “You are successful if you can say you made a difference in the lives of others.”
He encouraged the graduates to always have respect for others and themselves, to not be afraid to take advantage of opportunities that come their way, and to never give up no matter what life throws their way.
“May you be blessed in all things in life,” Sammetinger said. “Take advantage of life because the years go swiftly by.”