The first of 95 diplomas presented Sunday was for the late Drew Guyer, who would have graduated with the Wellington High School Class of 2018.
His parents were among the many at commencement wearing blue shirts in Drew’s memory. Tom and Brandi Guyer accepted their son’s certificate and were wrapped in hugs from senior class vice president Jessica Storrow.
Valedictorian Faith Alley cried as she delivered her speech to the crowd, remembering the effect Drew’s untimely 2013 death had on the class. As she faltered and choked back sobs, the bleachers broke into applause and she rallied.
“Drew really did leave his mark here, and when your heart is in it, it changes your entire mentality,” Alley said.
In the past five years, Drew’s friends have remained tight-knit. They’ve stayed close with his parents and have kept their departed classmate’s memory close.
“Our hearts are in this class,” said Alley, who feels blessed with a second family at school.
Senior class president Ezra Ohly also fought tears as she spoke, saying it had only just dawned on her that the ceremony would be the last time the 94 classmates would be in the same building together as one family.
Between milestones, members of the Class of 2018 created important memories together: “Not only have they created everlasting friendships, we will carry them in our hearts forever,” Ohly said.
Salutatorian Kaitlyn Garrett delivered a shocker during her address to the class.
She started by apologizing for not always being there for friends, for never being the best at saying hello in the hallway or being a shoulder to lean on.
Then Garrett pulled a reversal, unmasking herself as the student behind the @DukesCare “daily recognitions” Twitter account.
The until-now anonymous account has made a point of saying nice words about Wellington students, such as this May 24 message: “Lauren Alley is super smart and diligent. She pushes herself and others to the best and never lets anyone down.”
Garrett challenged graduates to always be there for others. “Don’t just be someone who people can go to but you yourself go to people. Ask people how they’re doing but don’t settle for ‘good,’” she said.
Principal Tina Drake conferred two awards to outstanding seniors.
The Citizenship Award is given to someone who best exemplifies the qualities of being respectful and helpful to others without expecting anything in return. This year, the award was presented to Ohly.
Wellington students are required to complete 32 hours of community service. The Class of 2018 completed 4,910 hours but one student contributed the most by far. The Community Service Award went to Brittany Weese.
Six students have decided to serve by enlisting in the United States military. They are Michael Hockenberger, Grant Kidd, Everett Kropff, Richard Maurer, Colin Shaffstall, and Nathaniel Shelton.
More than two-thirds of the class will continue their studies at a two- or four-year college, Drake said. She challenged all 94 graduates to remember to stand up for what they believe in and be ready to try new things.
“Class of 2018, you control your destiny – and remember, the most reliable way to predict your future is to create it,” she said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.