PHS graduation - yeah, that’ll happen

Review photos byEmmitt B. FeldnerStory byJamie Piontkowski Review photos byEmmitt B. FeldnerStory byJamie Piontkowski Plymouth High School graduated 208 students June 8 at Plymouth City Park with hundreds of family and friends in attendance.

For the first time, many students were adorned in gold, silver and bronze stolls, representing their cum laude status under the district’s new system for recognizing student achievement.

Also for the first time, an address was given by the class exemplar, the cum laude student chosen for the honor based on academics, soft skills, activities, leadership and service.

Class exemplar Maggie Mc- Connaha noted that the Class of 2014 is a class of firsts: there for the first installation of netbooks for every PHS student, the switch to Career Cruising, the start of Dr. Rauscher’s tenure, the new cum laude system and the beginning of healthy food initiatives in the cafeteria.

“This ease with change and unfamiliarity is going to serve us well in the coming years,” she said. “Despite not having someone there to prepare our favorite meals, asking us to check in with them every hour, setting a curfew, or cleaning up after us, we will be able to adapt to our new surroundings with ease: because we are used to change.”

Many students will enter career fields that are constantly changing, but they have been well prepared by the faculty at PHS, Maggie noted. “We, as a class, are very prepared to take on whatever changes and firsts the world should present to us because of our thorough education,” she said.

“Because we are a class of firsts, we are also explorers,” Maggie added. “The deep drive to find new ways of thinking, to distinguish ourselves, to achieve goals, and to fight for our ideals, is what is going to propel us into the most successful and ambitious areas in society. We are adaptable. No matter what is thrown at us over these following four, ten, or fifty years, because of the education we have received and our amazing ability to change, we will be able to rise to meet it.”

Someday, Plymouth may boast that it gave birth to the first person to go to develop a new water sanitation plant for developing countries, the first person to completely eradicate polio, or the first person to develop a new medical treatment for tuberculosis, Maggie said.

“So thank you, to all the faculty, advisers and other staff members who have contributed to our education and our development into adults,” Maggie said. “Thank you also to the parents and mentors in our lives - without all of you, we would not be as prepared as we are now to begin as independent adults ready to be part of the dynamic new world of firsts.”

Superintendent Carrie Dassow introduced the commencement speaker, English teacher Mary Strong, who was chosen by the seniors to give the address.

As themes, Strong frequently revisited the Class of 2014’s motto “Yeah that’ll happen” as well as a line from a Shel Silverstein poem, “Anything can be.”

She also explained a concept from her Contemporary Lit class: personal legends, the one thing each of us must do in life, the thing that brings us joy - but only if we work through any fears that stand in the way.

“It took me a long time to realize my personal legend, but when I finally found my IT - teaching all of you - my life became complete,” she said. “Being here with all of you has brought great joy to my life and you have helped me in ways you don’t know.”

One of those ways, she revealed, was when she was trying to come to terms with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis two years ago. At one point, an acronym popular with students popped into her head: YOLO - You Only Live Once.

“Embracing the concept of YOLO, I find myself fully living. I have been skydiving and sea kayaking, eating sushi and golfing and loving it. This year I even found myself at a Kidd Cudi concert and getting a tattoo, to all of which previously I would have said, ‘Yeah, that’ll happen.’”

Strong urged each student to search out his or her personal legend, facing down fear along the way, and never forgetting that “Anything can be” because “Yeah, that will happen.”

Drawing from another classroom exercise, she summarized her advice in a six-word essay: “YOLO: Believe you’re worthy of greatness.”

Also during the ceremony, PHS Principal Jennifer Rauscher recognized the three students who earned 4.0 grade-point averages: Kathryn Boening, Cooper Ebbott and Hayley Olsen.

The Commencement Band, directed by Jason Sebranek, performed the processional and recessional. The Senior Choral Ensemble, directed by Amanda Gaura, sang “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” by One Direction during the ceremony.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Delaney Olsen, Student Council president. She also announced the new inductees to the Plymouth High School Alumni Hall of Fame: Luther Schriefer, Joan Vorpagel and David Wacker.

Cooper Ebbott, president of the National Honor Society, welcomed those gathered and later directed students to shift their tassles.

Board of Education members Jamie Gambrell, Pam Holzhaeuser, John Klemme, Bob Travis and Richard York presented diplomas to students. Class vice president McKenzie Haese and secretary/ treasurer Emily Brown gave the closing remarks.

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