Oxford graduation marks emergence from chaotic years06/05/2022 11:15PM ● By Steven Hoffman
There were plenty of smiles to go around at the Oxford Area High School commencement last Friday night.
The parking was easy, warm summer breezes were wafting in, and the seniors finally emerged from a high school career of unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Normalcy returned to the Class of 2022 as they processed into the gym for graduation in the early evening. Led by the faculty and administration, they took their seats in the middle of the school’s gymnasium, ready to embark on their last adventure as high school students.
As much as precautions, masks, obstructions and bumps in the road gave the class a highly unusual ride through school, Principal James Canaday told the audience that he found much to be encouraged by during the past two years.
He said he received unprecedented amounts of support from parents, while he observed the students exercising strength and creativity to make some normalcy out of the chaos.
“We even had our first Homecoming dance outside in October,” he said.
Conducting a casual stand-up poll of the audience, Canaday asked that everyone who was a friend, parent or loved one of the senior class members to stand up.
It was unanimous.
He told the seniors to look around, “You all have someone here who supports you,” he said. “Make decisions that would make them proud.”
Class President Kenna Mullins greeted for classmates from the stage. She told them they had all made it through not only COVID, but “Senioritis” too.
She thanked them for their support and said she would not have even considered seeking a class office without encouragement from them. For her, they are community.
She advised, “Try something new. Push beyond your comfort zone.”
Salutatorian Kay Reyburn and Valedictorian Emiliano Zetune presented their academic honor speeches.
Reyburn, who will continue her education at Messiah College to study art, observed the obvious about the class’s experience: “It wasn’t typical like we see in the movies,” she said.
As she thought about her friends now, she realized that they had many similar backgrounds, but they were about to enter futures with many differences.
She offered them advice: “Stay humble, act responsibly, help others and share kindness. Work through the hard times and be confident in who you are,” she said.
Zetune was introduced as having emerged from his high school education with a 4.6 grade-point average. He is a National Merit finalist and through high school engaged in positions of leadership, band and sports. He will continue his education at Carnegie Mellon University.
He based his speech on the lessons of late theologian Reinhod Neibuhr’s Serenity Prayer which implores individuals to accept what they cannot change, seize the courage to change what they can, and possess the wisdom to know the difference.
Zetune said the differences in mindsets of people determine how they view what they can and cannot change, however. As individuals move forward, they often make decisions based on what they care for and see about themselves rather than reality.
He concluded with the simple advice to look at one’s self, determine one’s own mindset, and realize what is and is not changeable.
“If we can’t change something, don’t worry,” he said.
The seniors then marched onstage, one-by-one and received their diplomas from Canaday, Superintendent David Woods and School Board President Joseph Tighe.
After all the diplomas were handed out, Mullins passed the sash designating her presidency to Junior Class President Paige Pechin.
The ceremony concluded with the switching of the mortarboard tassels and a popping of a confetti shower.
Also supporting the ceremony were the Air Force Junior ROTC flag bearers and the OAHS Senior Chorus.