On Friday evening, Washington Court House High School celebrated the graduation of just under 140 students at the 143rd Commencement Ceremony.
The graduation began at 7 p.m. with bleachers full of peers, educators, friends and family. The National Anthem as well as the Alma Mater was played by the Washington High School band. The Washington High School choir joined with the band to sing the Alma Mater.
This year’s graduating class chose educator Louis Reid as the speaker. Reid first entered the WCHCS district as a physical education teacher for Belle Aire in 2001. In 2008, he transferred to the high school where he teaches first aid and CPR, health, cardio, weight training and physical education. This year he also taught a couple sections of health at the middle school.
Reid had three main lessons he shared with the students. The first lesson was to be resilient. He said, “sometimes, things will not go the way you want. Do not get discouraged.” The second was—“do not be afraid to try new things.” The third lesson was—“surround yourself with people who will make you a better person.”
In the closing of his speech, Reid explained, “I have had many of you in class and as a matter of fact, some of the seniors were the last group of students I had when I taught at Belle Aire Elementary. To see many of you go from not being able to tie your own shoes during PE to being successful in the classroom, other areas and graduate is impressive. I just really want to say congratulations class of 2019—we all here are proud of you.”
Beginning in 2016, Washington High School started the practice of honoring any student who meets the established criteria as students who achieve Honors With Distinction. The criteria are: earning an Honors Diploma from the State of Ohio, an ACT score of at least 27, earning at least 29 credits, a G.P.A. of no less than 4.0 on a 5.0 scale, and passing at least one weighted class in each core content area throughout their high school careers.
This year, seven students earned “Honored With Distinction” status and all seven students gave a speech during graduation. Those students were Grace Gerber, Connor Lane, Christina Luebbe, Shrey Maniya, Mackenzie Shaffer, Hailey Snyder and Blaise Tayese.
Gerber spoke first with an emphasis on remembering the past but now needing to move forward. Gerber said, “Remember that this is a chance to embrace change and start over if you want to. Who you were in high school doesn’t determine who you could or should become in the future. We all have changed and will continue to change. Find who you are. Become the successful and caring person you dreamed of becoming.”
Gerber ended her speech by summing up what it means to be a Blue Lion. “L—love unconditionally, you’ll never know when you’ll have to say goodbye. I: invest in you and the person you want to become. O: Own your mistakes and grow from them. N: never forget the people who have supported you from the beginning.”
The second speaker was Lane with a focus on adapting to change. He said, “A goal motivates you to do and be more, however, it is also important to not get too invested in any one thing.”
Lane explained that everyone will fail at least once, but it is important not to dwell on that one failure—take a step back, assess the situation and understand that “sometimes we are meant to do things other than what we thought we were. My advice to you is to be open. There is more than one thing you can be.”
In closing, Lane said, “adapt to your new situation and find a new path—you may even find that it is the better path. All of you have come a long way. Now it is time for all of you to not only find your own goals but find your own ways to get to them as well.”
Snyder spoke of perseverance and how all of the graduates are a part of each other as they have persisted, endured, fought and won. Snyder explained there is no shame in failure, only in “accepting the fall as defeat. Mistakes are an integral part of life if you can learn from them.”
Snyder said, “What matters is not how life treats you. What matters is how you treat it. We must move forward with dignity, strength and perseverance.”
Maniya was the next speech. He said, “Being in a small town, there isn’t really much for us to do. As we all go our separate ways, it’s important to remember that there is more to our world than just Washington Court House.”
Maniya explained that not every graduate would be doing the same things however, “Don’t fall into the monotonous tedium that is waking up, going to school, eating and going to sleep. That’s why we escaped high school, isn’t it? We can go out and explore the world like we’ve never been able to before.”
The next speaker, Tayese, is nicknamed The Governor by his peers. Blaise focused on the concept of finding oneself. He said, “I implore you all to pursue things you’re passionate about, because this is your chance to make yourself in your own image. We are unique and it’s in our uniqueness that set us apart and make us all great in our own way.”
Blaise explained that success looks differently for everyone and regardless of what that success looks like—“success is what you envision for yourself so follow that wish, because each one of you owes it to yourself to figure out who you are, because you only get one shot so make it count.”
Shaffer spoke of how much the graduates still do not know and her hope that life will be more exciting than the tasks undergone during high school, such as car pooling and gym class. She said, “We can let the unknown intimidate us, or we can become the unknown. We can fear it, or we can boldly walk into it—-accepting all that it has to offer.”
“Either way,” she said, “we must accept that we are clueless, inexperienced adolescents who have little-to-no idea what we’re doing. And this is right where we need to be. So class of 2019, I encourage you to fail, to make mistakes, to let life happen. But most importantly, acknowledge that mistakes are necessary for growth and that failure is necessary for success.”
Luebbe spoke of giving back to those less fortunate and to take that lesson away from the commencement ceremony. She explained that every generation learns from the other—“After today, it’s our job to teach those younger than us so that they may one day be on our shoulder. Some would argue that we’re still young and let’s be honest, they’re right. But just because we’re 18 doesn’t mean we still don’t have something to give.”
Luebbe closed with, “We did it class of 2019. We came, we saw and we conquered.”
The graduates ended the ceremony with the traditional turn of the tassel and toss of the hats. Applause and cheers followed the Blue Lion seniors as they left Washington High School as Blue Lion alumni.