Oxford Area High School's 141st annual commencement06/08/2021 01:42PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The 316 resilient members of Oxford Area High School’s Class of 2021 completed one journey and embarked on a new one during the school’s 141st annual commencement on June 4. They arrived as high school seniors who wanted to spend their final hours together as one class reflecting on their friendships and fond memories, and departed a few hours later as graduates who were eagerly looking toward a future filled with opportunities.
Class president Kelsey Bennett delivered the welcome address to the graduating seniors and their families and friends. Bennett talked about the special friendships that she had made at Oxford, and about how the other students in the class have helped make her a better person.
“All of you have changed my life immensely,” Bennett told her peers.
She also expressed gratitude for all the parents and families who helped the graduating seniors reach this moment.
The Class of 2021 didn’t have the easiest road to Graduation Day, of course—the last 15 months of the high school experience were disrupted by the global pandemic.
In his remarks to the graduating seniors, high school principal James Canaday said that he needed to express his sincerest appreciation and admiration for what the Class of 2021 was able to achieve under the most challenging of circumstances.
“This school year was unlike any other for our students, especially our seniors,” Canaday said. “You navigated the ups and downs of this school year with maturity. You should be proud as you walk across the stage this evening.”
The high school principal said that the students’ resilience over the last 15 months proved that they had what they needed to succeed in life.
The graduation speakers reminisced about the important bonds that were formed during their years in Oxford.
Turner Hannon, the class salutatorian, said that the sentiment of commencement required the speeches to have a certain level of cheesiness.
“Typically, I would shy away from this rhetoric con queso,” Hannon joked.
He encouraged his peers to acknowledge their own self-worth, and to make sure to keep their doubts and fears at bay when they head off to college or start their careers. Hannon, who was named a Commended Student in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program, will attend Lebanon Valley College to study actuarial science. He extended his heartfelt thanks to his parents, siblings, and friends. He also thanked the wonderful teachers at Oxford. Hannon and Bennett both thanked English teacher Carynne Burnett for her support. Burnett served as the class advisor for the Class of 2021.
Bennett said that Burnett “acted as a guiding light throughout the entirety of my high school experience.” Bennett added, “Under her teaching, I have become a better student and a better person as well. Her dedication to the class of 2021 has made the last four years exceptional for all of us.”
Nicholas Marker, the valedictorian for the Class of 2021, thanked the administrators and teachers for working so hard to make the school year as normal as possible for the students.
Marker noted that, because of the pandemic, the Class of 2021 never got the experience of one last Homecoming or one last Spirit Week. They didn’t get the chance to fill the student section and cheer on the senior football players. Even so, the Class of 2021 got through the pandemic together and they formed important bonds while doing so. He told his classmates that the memories they made the last four years will be ones that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. He said that they should always remember the bonds that they formed with each other while at Oxford, and take strength from them during challenging times.
Marker, who will attend the University of Southern California to study architecture, told his peers, “After we leave the room today, our futures will begin.”
Once all the speeches had been made, it was finally time for the highlight of any graduation ceremony—the awarding of the diplomas. The duty of presenting the diplomas to students was handled by superintendent David Woods, school board president Joseph Tighe, and Canaday.
Once all the diplomas were presented to the new graduates, Bennett passed the president’s sash to Kenna Mullins, the president for the Class of 2022, signaling that a new class of students could now look forward to their own Graduation Day.
Marker, the class parliamentarian, presided over the turning of the tassels, which officially marked the students’ transition from to students to graduates.
Senior class members Kirsten Brennan, Victoria Koechert, Emily McShane, and Bennett led a performance of the school’s alma mater, and then the Class of 2021 departed the gymnasium to “Pomp and Circumstance” as their friends and family waited to congratulate them on the biggest achievement of their young lives.