The student speakers representing the top 1 percent of John Marshall High School's graduating class Friday refused to follow any template for their speeches, and they refused to look at the close of their high school careers as any kind of end.
"I realized that everywhere we go, we will learn new things," Nash Burke said as he stood on stage at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. "Knowledge doesn't always come from a lesson plan. Life's about doing. Every word, every sight, every event we witness changes us."
"I'm just as clueless and scared about the future as you are," said Janelle Vickers. "Not every cookie-cutter future fits every person. We have so much life left to live."
Photo by Daniel Dorsch
The John Marshall Monarch Choir performs at the high school graduation at the WesBanco Arena in Wheeling on Friday. View additional photos at cu.theintelligencer.net
Vickers added that while not every moment in life will seem beautiful and perfect, in the end it will all be worth it.
When Rebekah Warnock spoke, she said high school is about much more than classes and lessons. She said it is unlikely that she or other students will be able to remember every last lesson from high school, but they will always remember their life experiences.
"Maybe what we really took away was about people," Warnock said, noting adolescence is mostly about forming perspective as a young adult. "The establishment of perspective is no small feat."
Principal Corey Murphy said the Class of 2013 consists of about 280 students.
"This is one of the smallest classes we've ever had," board of education Vice President Lori Kestner said before the ceremony.
At the same time, Murphy said this year's graduating class included 52 PROMISE scholars, more than ever before, and about $2.5 million in scholarships altogether.
Board President Roger Lewicki said this is Murphy's last graduation as John Marshall's principal because he was named the next assistant superintendent of Marshall County Schools.
"I could not be more proud as your principal," Murphy told the graduates. "It has surely been a great ride, one we as a staff enjoyed being part of."
For Lewicki and board member Thomas Gilbert, Friday's graduation ceremony bore special importance because both had children in the graduating class.
"In the last 13 years, we've watched you grow from kindergarteners to young, confident adults," Gilbert said as he spoke to students. "Never be afraid of what others think about your dreams. Follow them anyway. Never settle for anything else."
Lewicki addressed parents when he stepped up to the podium.
"Do you remember that first day of school?" Lewicki asked. "There was always that one who fell off the risers, the one who sang off key or blared the horn. Dads, do you remember that first date? And we all remember academic achievements, athletic accomplishments. Man, there's a lot of memories, aren't there?"
As he addressed the graduates, Lewicki thanked them for all the memories they created and reminded them to look up into the audience and remember that they all have loved ones who helped them get where they are.
"We're going to walk out of here tonight as high school graduates," Burke said. "We will wake up tomorrow as new people, as students of our environments."