Oxford Area High School's 135th commencement
● By J. Chambless
Maddie Sapp, Mireya Lopez, Jesus Villagomez, Braise Alexander, Thomas Sumner, and Tina Rogers in front of the high school before the graduation ceremony.
By Steven Hoffman
Jason D’ Antonio, the Class President of Oxford Area High School’s Class of 2015, stepped to the podium, took a deep breath, savored the moment, and then summed up the feelings of the 309 members of the school’s graduating class perfectly:
“We did it!” D’Antonio said proudly as his classmates cheered.
Oxford’s 135th annual commencement on Friday, June 5 was filled with moments of elation and moments of reflection during a 95-minute ceremony that was both heartfelt and upbeat.
D’ Antonio talked about how most of his classmates had started out 13 years earlier at Jordan Bank School, when the school days were filled with “Elmer’s Glue, construction paper, and Johnny Appleseed.” Those times in kindergarten were much simpler, D’ Antonio noted, than a school year filled with SAT tests, proms, and graduation projects. He credited his parents with helping him become the man that he is today, and also thanked his classmates for accompanying him on the journey to graduation.
“One of my greatest pleasures has been growing up to be who I am with you by my side,” D’ Antonio told his peers.
Alexander Coleman, the class valedictorian, also talked about the importance of classmates to the journey that the students have been on. He asked each member of the graduating class to imagine what it would be like if they were the only student in the school. Coleman said that he wouldn’t last long going it alone.
“We made it through together as one class,” he said.
Thomas Sumner, the class salutatorian, spoke about how quickly the time passed to arrive at graduation day.
“The day has arrived,” Sumner said. “I can’t wrap my head around the fact that we will soon be Oxford Area High School alumni.”
Sumner explained that the graduates will be prepared to handle whatever life throws at them because they have learned from “caring, dedicated teachers” at Oxford. These educators received a long round of applause from the graduates and their families and friends.
Sumner also talked about the possibilities that await the new graduates in the Class of 2015.
“Tonight may be an ending, but it’s also a beginning,” he said. “We’ll all be the same people we’ve always been after we receive our diplomas. It’s what we do after we receive our diplomas that will truly define us.”
Several speakers talked about their school pride. Abigail Harvey, the Student Council President, offered a brief history of Oxford Area High School and noted that, since this is Oxford’s 135th annual commencement, it is one of the oldest public high schools in the area. The first graduating class had six members—five women and one man—and they studied under the school’s only teacher, who also served as principal. This year’s graduating class, by contrast, had more than 300 members and were educated by a staff of more than 70 people, Harvey explained.
“Graduation signifies a time of transition in your lives,” said high school principal Christopher Dormer. “It is an end and a beginning.”
Dormer eschewed some of the overused elements of graduation speeches, choosing instead to share what he humorously called “Dormer’s words of wisdom.”
“Don’t forget to live in the present,” he told the audience. “Make each day count.” Then, repeating one of his favorite expressions, Dormer said: “Make it a good day or not…”
“The choice is yours!” the graduating class chimed in, as if on cue.
D’ Antonio spoke about how the graduating seniors now have an opportunity to change the world around them. He quoted President Abraham Lincoln when he said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” D’ Antonio encouraged his classmates, whether they are heading off to college, getting a job, or joining the military, to do their best and work to make a difference.
He added that no matter where they go or what they accomplish, the graduates will always carry Oxford with them.
“This place and these people will always hold a place in our hearts,” D’ Antonio said. “Oxford is our home.”
To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.