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Chester County Press

A day of smiles and farewells for Unionville High School

06/05/2018 02:41PM ● By J. Chambless

Students toss their caps at the end of the ceremony.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

June 5 was a day to say goodbye to school days and step into the future for the 2018 graduating class of Unionville High School.

The school's 95th annual commencement was held at the Bob Carpenter Convocation Center in Newark, Del., and offered the usual mix of broad smiles, handshakes, heartfelt speeches and congratulations for hundreds of graduates and thousands of family members who came to cheer them on.

School principal James Conley addressed the assembled Unionville students and spoke about “The art of gratitude,” noting how saying thank-you to someone has become a lost art. “Class of 2018, I encourage you to live a life of gratitude,” Conley said. “To truly take the time to thank those around you who have helped to get you to this moment in your young lives. … Put your devices away and spend some significant moments with the individuals in your life as a sign of your gratitude.”

Conley recalled a former student, Mary, who thanked her teachers at the end of every class, and he waved to her from the stage. “Mary is watching on our live stream in Japan, where she works in Hiroshima for an organization that promotes world peace education for teachers,” he said.

School district superintendent John Sanville asked the students to wave to their families in the stands. “When you look back on this day, you'll appreciate how much you've accomplished,” he said. “You will have multiple opportunities to see a situation from someone else's shoes, and I encourage you to do so. … As you grow older, you will look at your parents differently. They will seem smarter than ever before,” he added as the crowd laughed. “They are actually smart right now, but you are not yet in the place where you can see that. As you grow older, your views will change. You can believe me.”

Student honor speakers began with Gavin Brezski, who spoke about the contributions that the Class of 2018 has accomplished, along with Landhope runs, Friday night football games and band fries, and the anticipation of a snow day. “Let's take our experiences at Unionville High School and bring them with us as we move on to future endeavors,” Brezski said.

Student Taylor Thornton spoke about the similarities between people planted in good families and trees planted in good soil. “Never forget, the tallest oaks were once the smallest acorns,” she said.

Student Ashley Mannello spoke about the hard work done by students in their four years at Unionville. “I have seen some of the strongest people I know dealing with tears of stress, and the same people being over the moon about getting an A,” she said, adding that students should be proud of what they have accomplished, “whether you're at the top of the class or barely scraping by. Be proud. After all, it took us 13 years.”

The guest speaker at Unionville's graduations is a teacher selected by the senior class each year. This year's speaker was Veronique Liska, from the world languages department. She spoke about specific students she recalls from her years in teaching. “I continue to smile at each memory,” she said. “We have learned together about the world. To teachers, you are not just another student passing through. We remember each of you. … When in doubt, always err on the side of kindness,” she advised the graduates.

As the students formed two lines and walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, family members and friends shouted or clapped, and many of the students raised a hand in thanks to the crowd.

When it was time for the turning of the tassels on the caps to signify that graduation had occurred, the students tossed their hats in the air as Concert Band director Scott Litzenberg – who was marking his final graduation ceremony at Unionville High School – led the band in the “Chop Song,” a former fight song for Unionville that has recently been put aside due to cultural sensitivities. Beaming, Litzenberg closed the curtain on his decades of teaching at the school as the ceremony came to a close.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email

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