By Nicholette Carlson
SYRACUSE — Wawasee High School celebrated its 53rd annual commencement ceremony Sunday afternoon, June 6. There were 177 students in this year’s ceremony.
Graduating students entered Warrior Field to “Pomp and Circumstance.” Wawasee Superintendent Dr. Stephen Troyer welcomed students, family, friends and members of the community to graduation proceedings. He thanked the parents and family members, as well as faculty, staff and community members of graduating students, for helping get through the last year and a half. With e-learning and restrictions due to the pandemic, Troyer mentioned that the students’ ability to adapt has never been more important. He mentioned that each graduate has their own journey to pursue.
Troyer then introduced the student welcome speaker, Riley Menzie. “I’m just a normal student asked to give a speech,” Menzie stressed. While he admitted that the last year and a half made it difficult to focus on the end goal and stay motivated at times, it is important to look toward the future. Menzie ended his speech, stating, “Success is not always based on how much money you make, but how happy you are at the end of the day.”
Following the “National Anthem,” graduating senior Bronwyn Bonner then led everyone in student prayer. She asked that God help the students stay on their proper path and guide them as they begin the next chapter of their lives.
Salutatorian Alexandra Haberman discussed how the seniors should look back and cherish their time at Wawasee High School. Due to the pandemic, their high school careers looked nothing like the ones you see in the movies. However, “we went through it all together,” she stated. Even if they didn’t all know one another, she stressed, “We were all one class.”
“Today is the day that you and I go off to start our own lives,” Haberman told her fellow graduates. “Your future is up to you and only you. Let today be the day you become someone great.”
Haberman then introduced the valedictorian Tate Cowan and joked that she would be giving her speech via Google Meet. After Cowan took the stage, she recounted multiple memories throughout her four years at Wawasee High School. When discussing how they were robbed of nearly half of the traditional high school experience, she mentioned, “I never believed I could be affected by something on a global scale.”
While stress, distraction and isolation were all hardships associated with virtual learning, each of the graduates there were able to get through it together successfully. Cowan ended her speech telling her fellow students, “Go out into the world and break the mold.”
Wawasee High School Principal Geoff Walmer congratulated Haberman and Cowan on the persistence and resilience it took to give their speeches out on the football field, when their technology was set up for graduation to take place in the gym. “These last two years have been tumultuous,” he said. He thanked the students for his time as their principal and informed them that they are all the reason he went into education.
Walmer then introduced the commencement speaker, Assistant Principal John Snyder. Snyder began his speech by informing the faculty and staff, “What you do in a normal year is amazing. What you’ve done in the last year and a half is awe-inspiring.” When discussing his own life, Snyder stated that he realized, “If I didn’t like my story, I had the power to change it.” He wanted to make his story something worth telling.
Snyder congratulated the students on how they have persevered, made a difference and kept achieving their goals. He mentioned a variety of career paths including the medical field, teaching, welding and manufacturing, business, mechanics and the armed forces. After offering advice for each career path, Snyder ended with, “That’s a story worth telling.”
He encouraged students to pursue their dreams while also making the lives of others better. He said to live their lives so others see them being compassionate and touch others’ souls. “You have the power to be a difference maker every day,” he emphasized.
Prior to reading aloud each student’s name and handing them their diploma, Jace Keaton James Alexander and Liam Maloney were both recognized since they were unable to be at commencement.
Following the diploma presentation, the Wawasee Choir sung the “Wawasee Hymn.”
Cowan and Haberman took the stage once more to lead their fellow graduates in the tassel turning ceremony. In traditional fashion, students then threw their graduation caps in the air.