Oxford Area High School’s 137th commencement
By Steven Hoffman
With “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1” playing, the 306 members of Oxford Area High School’s Class of 2017 entered the school gymnasium filled with their family and friends to celebrate an important milestone in their young lives. June 2, 2017, would be a day that they will never forget, and over the course of two hours, as Oxford Area High School’s 137th annual commencement took place, the students fondly looked back at their time together and optimistically looked toward the future.
“Tonight, we celebrate the Class of 2017 for their dedication and determination,” said senior class vice president Brendan Chew during his welcome address. “We move, after this evening, on to the next chapter of our lives.”
Chew thanked his teachers for their help and support through the years, and he was also the first of several speakers to talk about the importance of the support from family that the members of the Class of 2017 received on their way to graduation night.
“I can’t thank you enough. Mom and Day, I love you,” he said.
Student Council president Elizabeth Harvey asked all members of the audience who served in the military to stand so that they could be recognized. Next, she asked the members of the Class of 2017 who are entering the military to stand so that they, too, could be recognized.
Natalie Giovan, the senior class historian, told her classmates that have big choices ahead. They will choose careers and become nurses, servers, broadcasters, or politicians. But they will also choose to be happy and successful—or not.
“A world of opportunities await us,” Giovan said. “It is your choice, and your choice alone, to be successful.”
She then quoted former high school principal Christopher Dormer when she said, “Graduates, make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours.”
High school principal James Canaday encouraged the graduates to pursue work that they love to do, and then to work as hard as they can. He quoted president Thomas Jefferson when he said, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
Mikael Axelsson, the class salutatorian who will be attending the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, spoke fondly of growing up in Oxford.
He noted that many students picked up the books for the summer reading program at the Oxford Library, which dates all the way back to 1784.
Looking out at his classmates all wearing Oxford’s colors—what Axelsson referred to as a sea of maroon and white—he said, “We are all Oxford proud.”
He encouraged his classmates to reflect on their past to improve their future, and to always believe in themselves.
“If you think that you can,” he said, “you will. Never give up on your dreams and do what your heart tells you to do.”
Axelsson quoted from coach Herb Brooks’ pre-game speech to the U.S. Olympic hockey team when they were facing the Soviet Union in the medal round of the 1980 Olympics when he told his classmates, “This is your time! Now go out there and take it!”
Class valedictorian Bailey Myers, who will be attending Penn State University to study astrophysics, summed up the momentous occasion that a commencement is when he said, “This is one of the most important milestones in our lives. We will go out into the world not as kids, but as adults.”
After Myers concluded his remarks, it was the moment that the students had been working toward for more than twelve years. Oxford Area School District superintendent David Woods stepped to the microphone and declared that the seniors were now officially graduates of Oxford Area High School, much to the delight of the audience and the graduates themselves. Woods, Canaday, and school board president Richard Orpneck presented each member of the class of 2017 with a diploma.
When everyone from Daniel Alexander to Diana Zavala had received their diploma, it was then time for class president Anthony Gourdier to pass the president’s sash on to the 2018 class president, Sarah Robinson.
Giovan returned to the microphone to lead the class in the turning of the tassel, which sent the senior class into a frenzy of cheering and celebrating.
The concert choir of the senior class of 2017 performed the school’s alma mater, and then, with “Pomp and Circumstance” playing, the graduates took part in the recessional, concluding one chapter in their lives.