By Steven Hoffman
For the 260 members of Oxford Area High School’s 133rd graduating class, June 7, 2013 will always be one of the most memorable days of their lives. It’s the day when one chapter of their lives ended and another began.
“This is the night that we’ve been waiting for the last 13 years for,” said class president Jennie Droz as she delivered the welcome address at the commencement. “Let’s cherish these final moments because this is the last time that we’ll be together as a class.”
Surrounded by family members and friends, the Class of 2013 did cherish their time together as members fondly looked back at their academic careers at Oxford and optimistically looked ahead to the future.
Droz talked about the changes that she and her classmates’ had experienced in just the last four years, noting that when they started out as freshman their biggest problems were finding their lockers and staying out of the way of seniors. But before long, Droz said, those frightened freshmen had become upperclassmen who were scholars and athletes and artists and volunteers. Then they grew into young adults who were making decisions that would affect the course that their lives will take.
Valedictorian Lauren Thomson’s humorous speech avoided some of the more clichéd sentiments that usually pop up in graduation speeches. She dispelled the notion that the graduates’ best days were the ones that they had just experienced.
“No! No, no, no!” she said.
Thomson concluded her remarks by predicting big things for the Class of 2013.
Anne Nusbaum, the class salutatorian, challenged her classmates to be the hero of their own story and to choose what is right over what is easy. She said that they should all be willing to work hard for what they want.
Nusbaum quoted Gandhi who said that each person must be the change you wish to see in the world.
“It might be a cliché, but it’s true,” Nusbaum said. She also shared the words of C.S. Lewis with her classmates to conclude her remarks about change: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.”
Superintendent Dr. Raymond Fischer, who was speaking at his last graduation ceremony, quoted Dr. Norman Vincent Peale when he told the graduating seniors, “The secret of life isn’t what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you.”
He also quoted the minister and “Power of Positive Thinking” author when he said, “How you think about a problem is more important than the problem” and “Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength that you think they have.”
Fischer encouraged the students to follow Peale’s advice and never use the word impossible and to rely on the power of positive thinking as they go through life.
Dr. Scott Farina, the principal of the Oxford Area High School for the last year, talked about how Albert Einstein was a failed high school student—he temporarily left school without a degree—but his curiosity about science spurred him to do groundbreaking work.
“The most important lessons,” he told the graduating students, “cannot be turned in for a grade.”
While most of the awards were handed out at a Senior Awards Ceremony on May 22, district officials did present two awards during commencement.
Farina handed out the George and Georgiana Jackson Scholarship to Shannon Wright, Shelby Wright, and Eric Farkas. George and Georgiana Jackson were educators in the school district and they established a trust for scholarships to be given out to students who intend to pursue degrees in education.
Next, Fischer presented Meghan Brumbley and Dalton Wolfe with the Outstanding Senior Award.
Finally, it was time that the students had been waiting for. As each graduating student’s name was called, Fischer, Farina, and School Board President Jason Brady handed out the diplomas.
By the time class of 2013 treasurer Melissa Loftus led her classmates with the turning of the tassel, the gymnasium buzzed with excitement. Beach balls, not one or two but dozens, appeared suddenly. The seniors chanted, “two, oh, one, three.”
The students sang Oxford’s alma mater and then recessed to “Pomp and Circumstance” with the words of their class president, Droz, still in their heads:
“Anything is possible with a little faith and determination,” she said. “[But] you’ll always have a home in Oxford.”