The 211 members of the Wapakoneta High School Class of 2011 were encouraged to reach for their dreams and no matter where they end up to never forget where they came from.
“I encourage you to remember where you’ve been no matter where you’re heading,” Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education President Willie Sammetinger said.
His was a message that was echoed by several speakers during commencement exercises Saturday morning in the Wapakoneta High School gymnasium.
Graduates also were encouraged several times to make a difference.
“Strive to be better and make a difference,” encouraged Amy Snider who led her class in an opening prayer.
Principal Aaron Rex told the students, of whom 14 were graduates with distinction (carrying 3.75 grade point averages throughout high school and completing 10 of 15 honors classes), 54 received honors diplomas, and 97 received Awards of Merit, to spend the day celebrating their accomplishments and reflect in the memories but just as important is to begin preparing for the next leg of the journey.
“Let the challenges serve as motivation to reach beyond what others expect of you,” Rex said.
Sharing the “Secrets of Success,” Rex told students to trust in God, believe in themselves and dare to dream.
“I wish each of you a happy and productive live,” Rex said.
Recognized as the top five students in the class were Jared Sudhoff, Kelsi Rupersburg, Tiffany Puff, Rachel Buzzard and Chloe Hire, who served as honor speakers for the commencement.
Sudhoff reminded classmates not to judge a book by its cover, while Rupersburg talked about the difference between what one is taught and what one knows. She thanked her mother for lessons she has learned.
“You may not always know where you’re going or what you’re doing, but remember where you came from and what you stand for,” Rupersburg said.
She told fellow graduates that they could come back if they ever got lost.
“We have it all as a class and we’ve been through it all,” Puff said of graduates who excel in a variety of areas from athletics and art to music and academics.
“Remember what you’ve accomplished and that you come from Wapakoneta, the land of the Redskins, home of Neil Armstrong and Kent Boyd,” Puff said. “We are capable of changing the world around us.”
Buzzard told her classmates not to follow where the trail may lead, but to go instead where there is no trail and make a path.
“Today we are together for one last time and ready to branch out on our own paths,” Buzzard said. “Whatever your plan may be, I encourage you to create your own path, to do something great and leave a trail for others to follow.”
Hire said high school has been great but they have the rest of their lives in front of them and she, for one, is looking forward to the next chapter.
Lessons learned at Wapakoneta High School go deeper than academics and Hire said those ideas on what is important in other people and what defines each of them will carry with them throughout life.
“Never forget what you accomplished,” Hire said. “That’s what makes it one of the best times in our lives.
“Because you are all sitting here and accomplished that, today you are amazing,” she said.
Also recognized during commencement exercises were students at Apollo Career Center and those students who have elected to go into a branch of the military after graduation.
Veteran Jeffrey Bert Mitchell was escorted by his granddaughter and member of the class of 2011 Kayla Schneider to receive his diploma. Because of his military service he was unable to attend his own graduation years ago.
“Your service and sacrifice are greatly appreciated,” Superintendent Keith Horner said as Mitchell was met with a standing ovation.
Horner encouraged all students to reflect on the special day and thank those who helped them get there. In return, he asked them to make a difference in their communities and families as those who helped them have.
Sammetinger, who along with board member Ron Mertz sat where Saturday’s graduates did 40 years ago, told them to take advantage of life.
“It goes quickly,” Sammetinger said, also advising them to be a part of something in their communities and make a difference in someone’s life like those who did in theirs.
Sammetinger, who accepted the list of graduates on behalf of the board, advised them to always have respect, not be afraid and never give up.
Class President Royce Kantner presented the senior class memorial, making the announcement that the class of 2011 would be joining forces, and funds, with the Class of 2010 to erect a 5-foot granite American Indian statue to be placed in front of the Performing Arts Center. Along either side is to be a bronze pillar with names of the members of the classes inscribed.