Oxford Area High School’s 139th annual commencement
● By Steven Hoffman
At 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 7, the 317 members of Oxford Area High School’s Class of 2019 walked—together—into the gymnasium as “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1” played. The gymnasium was already filled with proud parents and grandparents, extended family and friends, as well as the school district’s staff—all of whom had helped the students reach this milestone moment in their young lives.
At 6:50 p.m., class president Luke Winand stepped to the microphone, looked out at the large crowd, and uttered four magical words that summed up the thoughts and emotions of his classmates: “We finally made it!”
Winand welcomed Oxford Area High School’s Class of 2019, as well as their families and friends who had gathered, to the 139th annual commencement.
“It was only four short years ago that we entered the halls of OAHS,” Winand explained, “and now we’re ready to move on to the next chapter of our lives.”
Over the course of the next two hours, the Class of 2019 reflected on their time together at Oxford and looked forward, with hope and optimism, to the lives that await them as adults.
Winand and several other graduation speakers thanked the teachers and administrators, and the family members and friends, for helping them along the way.
In the first of several emotional moments during the graduation ceremony, Winand remembered Julia Latimer, who passed away in 2018, and Eli Matthews, who passed away in 2011. A moment of silence followed.
Oxford Area High School principal James Canaday offered remarks during the ceremony. He talked about how supportive the Oxford community is. “Without your partnership and support,” Canaday said, “we would not be here tonight. The Oxford community is a very special place. I wish you all a very memorable night.”
Canaday noted that one of his family’s four children was among the graduating seniors, and he said that he has forged special relationships with members of the Class of 2019 and their parents.
“It’s an honor to share this with you,” Canaday said.
The high school principal encouraged the graduates to surround themselves with positive people who support them, and to make decisions that will make their families proud.
Class salutatorian Emily Stewart talked about the momentous occasion, and what it would mean for the students.
“Graduation is an exciting time. It is an ending and a beginning,” she said. “Today, we reflect on the memories we made here and we envision the future that lies ahead. We have all had challenges, but we overcame them. We worked hard to get where we are today.”
Graduating high school, Stewart said, was not the last chapter in the lives of the graduates. They will go on to other chapters that will determine the stories that their lives tell. Stewart said that they will carry what they learned in Oxford with them.
“We’ll take a little piece of Oxford wherever we go,” Stewart said.
Valedictorian Jacob Hewes looked to the “short, silly, catchy” words of Dr. Seuss to write his own speech. He noted that some of the most important life lessons were captured by Dr. Seuss.
Hewes’ clever and entertaining address was written in short rhymes. An illustration:
“The time has come for us to spread our wings and fly
To college or work or whatever we try”
Another one of the more heartfelt moments of the graduation ceremony came when Hewes spoke fondly of his twin brother, Noah, who was also among the graduates.
Jacob Hewes put it this way:
“Of my six brothers and sisters
There’s one who stands out
He’s the one who looks just like me
But I have more clout”
The valedictorian thanked his twin brother, and led the audience in applauding for him.
Next, Oxford Area School District superintendent of schools David Woods officially presented the members of the Class of 2019 as graduates.
Then came the highlight of the commencement—the awarding of diplomas. Woods, Canaday, and school board president Joseph Tighe congratulated each student while presenting the diplomas.
Once all the diplomas were handed out, Winand returned to the stage for the passing of the president’s sash to Ashley Navarette, the president of the class of 2020. Class parliamentarian Marleen Toney led the graduates for the turning of the tassel. The senior class concert choir performed the school’s alma mater, and then the Class of 2019 departed to “Pomp and Circumstance” as their friends and family waited to greet the high school graduates.