The Washington High School 141st commencement ceremony was held Sunday afternoon at the gymnasium with the bleachers full of families and friends of the seniors.
The processional began as the crowd welcomed the class of 2017 followed by a performance of the National Anthem under the direction of Matt Stanley. In tradition, the band and choir were led by students during the Alma Mater. Ethan Marting directed the band and Ashton Carr directed the choir.
Following the invocation by Gretchen Milstead, Jon Hemmelgarn, vice principal at Washington High School, introduced various board members and other administration for the district and high school. Class president Madalyn Wayne then welcomed and congratulated the class for reaching graduation.
“It is such a great honor to be speaking in front of you today as the senior class president,” Wayne said. “We face this evening with mixed feelings – pride and a sense of accomplishment for all that we have achieved, apprehension as we stand on the brink of a new chapter of our lives, and excitement at the prospect of turning a new page, starting a new adventure and taking our first steps to achieving potentially amazing things.”
Principal Trace Rose took to the podium next to recognize the students who were inducted into the Academy of Scholars and introduced the speaker, chosen by the class of 2017, Ryan Day, a teacher at Washington High School.
Day spoke about many truths that he wanted to tell the class. Through several humorous stories, a bit of advice and opening up to the students, Day told the class to invest in others, that life is not all about them (except graduation day), encouraged them to find a mentor, to explore and travel and finally that minds are perhaps the most intense battlefield.
“Our mind has such power – positively or negatively,” Day said. “Let me encourage you to be aware of what you watch, who you hang out with, the social media sites that fill your mind. Sometimes you might need to end a relationship to help you be more healthy. Or, you may need to be less ‘cool’ because you don’t engage in some other activities that others around you are enjoying…I’m not trying to be a major ‘Debbie Downer.’ In fact, I’ve experienced more blessings than one man deserves. I simply want to equip you for what will come. Please consider what I’ve told you today and apply it to your life. I think you’ll be glad you did.”
Six students, who were recognized for achieving honors with distinction, had the privilege to address their fellow classmates. The six, one at a time, approached the podium and delivered advice, farewells and memories from their time at Washington High School.
Liam Downing spoke of having pride in the Washington City Schools and their family of “Blue Lions.” He said that no matter if each student started at Sunnyside with them, or joined later on the journey, they are still Blue Lions.
Seth Hanusik encouraged his classmates to use all that they learned in the classroom to their advantage. Some may say, “When am I ever going to use this in my life,” but Hanusik told the class that they will be surprised how much of what they have learned will apply to their lives.
Alex Trombold talked about the impact that not only the classroom, but the playing fields had on their education. He said that one important lesson is to never give up and drive to be the best they can be. No matter how coaches commanded the team, they weren’t just yelling, but teaching them how to push themselves to their limits from day one.
Gage Summers highlighted the importance of music and said that it is the most “instrumental part of the curriculum here.” He said that personally, as a member of the vocal and instrumental portions of the musical spectrum offered at Washington High School, he felt as though music is the pride of the school. From the band to the stage, music is what brings the school together.
Gretchen Milstead paid homage to the teachers at the school by explaining how they each taught them a different lesson. All of these lessons, and many more, came from their teachers and without them, she said they would not be as prepared for the futures to come.
Finally, Susanna Eckstein summarized the speeches and said that as a class they have been through so much. She said that whether it was good or bad memories, they cannot forget these times because they taught them valuable lessons which make them who they are today.
“It is time to leave our mark on the world class of 2017,” Eckstein said. “We can be presidents, doctors, lawyers, artists, anything your heart desires. ‘The world is your oyster’ as my grandpa would say. Go out and represent Washington High School well, I know you all will.”
Hemmelgarn continued the ceremony with recognition of the thousands of dollars of scholarships that were awarded. Finally, with the presentation of the class and diplomas, the class officially graduated and finished with the traditional cap toss and switching of the tassels led by Wayne.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy