The waters may have been rough but these Pirates weathered every storm and made it to port.
Black River High School’s 56th commencement ceremony saw 97 seniors receive diplomas May 27. Six took part in the National Honor Society, 10 received honors diplomas, and eight were given the President’s Outstanding Academic Achievement Award.
Keynote speaker Jenifer Markley literally looked into a crystal ball to paint an optimistic picture of what departing seniors can look forward to.
She predicted future executives, public servants, media members, and even reality television stars among the graduates. While some of the divinations were meant to garner laughs, they also highlighted the importance of enjoying the moment at hand before focusing on what’s to come.
“There is no Common Core in adulthood,” Markley said. “Everything is elective. Before you press fast forward, look around and cherish this time with friends and family. As you grow older, the only thing that speeds up is time. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again.”
Principal Todd Yoder talked about his personal ties to the Class of 2016, whose members were the first that he saw through every year of high school at Black River.
“I’ve been here at Black River for four years. Seeing them start as freshmen and now be at this point kind of pulls on my heartstrings,” he said. “I’m very impressed with the amount of scholarships earned by these seniors. Schools that will be welcoming them include Bowling Green, Dayton, and Cleveland State. We’ve had a number of local hospitals help with scholarships, too, for our students entering the medical field.”
Valedictorian Alexandria Rayk will head to the University of Toledo next year to study medical microbiology an immunology.
“I hope to eventually work for the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and develop new vaccines,” she said. “I’ve always been very interested in science and in helping other people so I figured that I should combine those things into a career.”
Both Rayk and salutatorian Emily Kollar used their commencement speeches to talk about what they’ll miss at Black River but also touched on behavioral issues that arose with the class.
“I promise that there are people out there who want you to be successful,” Rayk said in her speech. “Whether it’s a larger issue in your life or something as simple as trying to fold an origami dragon in Anime Club, someone wants to help you. It all reminds me of how lucky I am to have people in my life who love me, support me, and accept me for the person I am. To the teachers, thank you for putting up with our class. We aren’t the most mature class by any means. We seemed to have assemblies every other week starting in middle school about our behavior. You disciplined us fairly, though, and left room for us to learn from our mistakes.”
Kollar remained polite and poised but could not hide her frustration with certain experiences in high school.
“We tend to hit something with a hammer until the job is done,” she said. “Our class has never really fit in because of all of the changes that were pushed on us. We were given countless assemblies that were meant to lecture us about our behavior. We were not able to go on the same field trips or have the same special privileges as classes before us. This was paired with standardized testing changes. Every single time a test was changed we were the guinea pigs. I’m not going to stand up here, reminisce, and make everyone cry talking about how much we’ll miss each other. Throughout the years, our class has never been close like that. We’re a class of misfits, meaning that we all have our own ways and personalities.”
Despite any bumps along the way, senior class adviser Debi Carver said the Class of 2016 has a bright future.
“These kids were a lot of fun,” she said. “We went to Cedar Point the other day for our class trip and had a total blast. Some are going off to school. Some will be entering the workforce. Some are even joining the military. This class has a little bit of everything and aren’t just steering in one direction. My generation will be retiring in 20 or so years. I trust that I’ll be in good hands when it’s this group of kids’ turn to run things.”
Other graduates talked about steering in those different directions in the coming years.
“I want to look at all aspects of history,” said Abigail Delewski, who will major in history at Bowling Green. “I want to learn from it and use it to make the world a better place. We can learn so much from past and see what worked and what didn’t work. That’s how you avoid making the same mistakes.”
Rachel Daly will head to the Lorain County JVS to study cosmetology after taking part in a wide array of activities as a Pirate.
“Teamwork is very important. You don’t do anything totally on your own in life,” she said. “I’m going to miss band and all of the extracurriculars I was involved in. I was in the drama club, played softball, played the saxophone in concert band, and I also placed fifth in a state competition with Power of the Pen.”
Troy Yourich has enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
“It’s been a 12-year journey here with my friends and I will miss them very much but I know a great adventure awaits for me in the Navy,” he said. “The leadership skills that I’ve learned here at Black River will really help me out. I would like to take the smiles from around here with me because that has been what’s fed my dedication as a student.”
No matter the path chosen, Yoder is optimistic about the future of these graduates.
“I don’t have to worry too much about this class,” he said. “They’re very good kids. They like to break records and push the boundaries. We’ve had our college academy at Black River for a number of years. A good chunk of these students have over a year’s worth of college courses under their belts already. I won’t be sitting back and biting my nails and worry about their futures. These are the kinds of kids where you can sit back and just wait and see what they bring to fruition.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier and Russ Gifford | Wellington Enterprise Keynote speaker Jenifer Markley looks into a crystal ball at seniors’ futures.