A crew of 96 proud Pirates walked the commencement stage Friday as the Black River High School Class of 2017 received diplomas.
Ten earned a President’s Award for Educational Achievement and 11 earned honor diplomas, said principal Martin Yoder.
“The very second our ceremony is done, the Class of 2017 commences on a journey into the rest of their lives,” he said, addressing a packed gymnasium. “It’s a time of expectation and anticipation. Over the years here at Black River, we’ve done our best to help our students become responsible and independent young men and women. I believe we’ve done very well. In speaking to this class, they’ll miss being students here but are more than ready to take on the world.”
The Class of 2017 finished with a cumulative grade point average of 3.1, completed 855 college credit hours, and earned more than $2.5 million in scholarship offers.
Fighting back tears, salutatorian Bailey Scheck said lessons in the classroom were complemented by what was learned in athletic competition.
“I remember crying on the last day each year in elementary because I’d miss school so much,” she said. “Yes, I know I was a little intense about school. However, I’m glad to be passionate about something as important as my education. In high school, we branched out, tried new things, and made memories that will last a lifetime. Many of us have memories on the athletic field. There I learned respect, class, determination, teamwork, how to win, and how to lose. I cherish those lessons learned and want to say thanks to all of our coaches.”
“We’ve bounced back from our various ups and downs and now we’re here on graduation night about to start the rest of our lives,” said valedictorian Kearson Petruzzi. “I’d like to take a moment to thank the staff and administration at Black River. I feel extremely fortunate to have been taught by these amazing educators. I’d also like to thank my best friend, Hayley Sotherland, who’s inspired and motivated me to be the best I can be day in and day out.”
Three graduates earned state degrees from the Ohio Future Farmers of America and the class as a whole logged 2142 hours of community service.
Keynote speaker Betsy Rector, a retired Black River teacher, showed off a vivid memory of the graduates going back to their elementary years.
“In those 30 years teaching here, at approximately 100 students per year, I’ve gotten to have an influence on 3,000 students and their families,” she said. “All of you have also had an influence on me and for that I’m very thankful. In those 30 years, 29 were spent with fifth-graders, but there was one special year when I volunteered to move to sixth grade. I remember the day I announced to you I was moving up with you. I still remember how your 10-year-old cheers made my heart smile.”
Yoder, finishing his fifth year as principal, said after the ceremony that the road hasn’t always been easy — but that may have made the finish line even sweeter for these departing Pirates.
“I’ve had this class for all four years,” he said. “One of the students asked my to say what my favorite class has been. I’m not going to do that, but there’s a lot of things about this class that got into my heart. We struggled a bit at the beginning, but we saw here tonight them demonstrating a lot of respect for each other and for this school.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.