Oxford Area High School holds its 136th commencement
By Steven Hoffman
Olivia Cannon, the valedictorian of Oxford Area High School’s Class of 2016, challenged her classmates to overcome their failures, face their fears, and work harder than they have ever worked during her speech at the school’s 136th commencement on June 3.
Cannon recalled how, as a sophomore, she heard so much talk about how difficult the AP chemistry class was. The coursework was indeed challenging, Cannon explained, but she worked hard and was not afraid of the challenge. She managed to earn an A and was glad that she faced the challenge of the class, even though she knew that she could have failed.
“Failure teaches you what you need to succeed,” Cannon said. “Be brave in the face of failure because, if you are, you will succeed.”
Cannon’s words of wisdom came during a fast-paced, 95-minute ceremony filled with fond remembrances and hopeful glances toward the bright future that awaits the 295 graduating seniors.
Christopher Dormer, the principal of the high school, lauded the students for their accomplishments.
“The Class of 2016 has achieved much,” he said, explaining that they collectively earned more than $1.7 million in scholarships and grants.
Dormer, who was recently named the assistant superintendent of the Norristown Area School District, said that his last official words to the seniors would be similar to the first words he said to them when he arrived in 2013: “Make it a great day or not – the choice is yours.”
Shain Quigley, the class vice president, also talked about the power the students have to decide how their future will turn out. Quigley said that they should all overcome their fears in pursuit of their dreams and hopes.
“There are only two things that you can control in your life – your attitude and your effort,” he said.
Noting that it had taken 13 years of work in school to reach graduation night, Michael Williams, the salutatorian of the Class of 2016, said, “This is one of the most important days in our lives up to this point.”
Williams added that every student was helped by the support of family and friends. He thanked everyone who had helped along the way, and he also encouraged his classmates to reach their fullest potential. “The purpose of life,” Williams said, “is to experience as much as possible.”
A recurring theme throughout the evening was school pride. Williams said that the relationships that were made during the time in Oxford are very important, and friends and family will always be there to offer support. Alexandria Tzanakis, who was the student representative on the Oxford School Board, talked about the history of the school district. She explained that Oxford is one of the oldest public high schools in the area, and the very first graduating class had just six members – five women and one man -- and they studied under the school’s only teacher, who also served as principal.
The highlight of the evening, of course, was the awarding of diplomas. Superintendent David Woods, school board president Richard Orpneck, high school principal Christopher Dormer, and assistant principal Michael Garrison congratulated each of the graduating seniors as they received their diplomas.
Once all the diplomas were handed out, Emma Wilkinson, the class historian and student council president, had the honor of overseeing the turning of the tassel. The Concert Choir of the Class of 2016 then led everyone in a performance of the Alma Mater. The family and friends in attendance then rewarded the graduates with a loud ovation as they departed the high school gymnasium to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance.”