Unbounded pride, celebratory hugs, and sorrow for a lost classmate mixed Sunday as the Wellington High School Class of 2017 came together.
“Today is a culmination of our growth and hard work, which started with the first day of kindergarten some 13 years ago,” senior class president Meredith Meyers told fellow graduates.
It was a day to look both forward and backward, to remember field trips, junior high dances, pep rallies, bonfires, and rivalry games and to embrace changes that will bring college, new careers, and new places to live.
Calling Wellington’s 142nd commencement ceremony a time of hope, Meyers wished the 100 graduates success and good health and charged them to hold dearly what they learned in high school — not just history and math and physics but responsibility, caring for others, and the value of community service.
The Class of 2017 produced 15 honors diploma students, 25 with 3.5 or higher GPAs, and 15 National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society members. Two of its members, Trevor Boose and Andrew Conway, plan to or have already entered the Marine Corps.
It is also sending many young people into the workforce with training from the Lorain County JVS. Vocational honor student Sara Roman looked out at the sea of graduates in the WHS gymnasium and saw mechanics, engineers, and designers.
“They say the biggest mistake one could ever make is being too afraid to ever make one. This means if you stay in your comfort zone you will miss out on the wonderful surprises that life has to offer,” she said.
Roman challenged classmates to forget about the fear of failure and make life an adventure, something to tell their grandchildren one day.
“In the end, they won’t tell stories of your video game victories or you binge of ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix,” she said. “They will tell stories of trips across the globe and of the works of art that took weeks to create. Don’t have an adventure of a lifetime. Have a lifetime of adventure.”
Not all members of the Class of 2017 will get to get to experience those exploits, though. The family of Joshua Byers was given his diploma in memoriam Sunday, getting hugs from his close friends.
Byers, 17, ended his life last spring in an incident at the Wellington Reservoir.
In mourning, students created a memorial banner at WHS in the days following his death, writing messages such as, “Thanks for always putting your wonderful smile on for everyone else.”
Class treasurer Jared Sartori was Byers’ best friend. “Today we learn to say goodbye,” he told classmates, his words laced with a double meaning.
Lightening the mood with wit as the ceremony closed, Sartori said WHS graduates are the last of the all-90s babies. They lived through 9/11, Y2K, the Mayan apocalypse, “the dress,” and the 2016 presidential election.
In closing, he thanked parents Chris and Bill Sartori, Ibuprofen, and computer scientist Larry Tesler, inventor of the copy-paste function.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.