Stepping into their future

Plymouth High School Class of 2017 graduates receive diplomas under sunny June skies
Story by
Jamie Piontkowski
Review photos by
Emmitt B. Feldner

Plymouth High School graduated 193 students June 4 at Plymouth City Park with hundreds of family and friends in attendance.

The Commencement Band, directed by Jason Sebranek, performed the processional and recessional. The Senior Choir, directed by Amanda Smith, sang "Humble and Kind" by Tim McGraw.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Carlee Olsen, Student Council president. She later announced the new inductees to the Plymouth High School Alumni Hall of Fame: Gary Gritt, Joel Dudley and Beau Hoopman.

Gwendolyn Nytes, president of the PHS National Honor Society, welcomed those gathered and later directed students to shift their tassels. Class president Jacob Welsch gave the closing remarks.

PHS Principal Jennifer Rauscher explained the school's cum laude system and the different color stolls worn by students: bronze for cum laude, silver for magna cum laude and gold for summa cum laude, the highest recognition.

Rauscher also introduced the class exemplar, Derek Schweiger, chosen by a panel of adults to represent the Class of 2017 based on his stellar academic work, extensive extracurricular involvement, and leadership skills.

Schweiger urged his classmates to get involved, to stand out, and to find a passion and share it with everyone else. "What are you going to do in your life that is going to make you stand out?" he asked. "Are you going to do something in your life that will make people remember you?"

Superintendent Carrie Dassow thanked the families, teachers, staff, and community for their support of the students. "My wish is for you to find happiness and to make the difference in the world you wish to make," she said.

Dassow introduced the commencement speaker chosen by the seniors, Sam Scharinger, associate pastor at New Life Community Church and a PHS school counselor for most of their time as Panthers.

Scharinger encouraged the students to use the occasion to reflect on their purpose in life. "You see, it took me about thirty years to really start to comprehend what my purpose was," he said, ticking off a variety of paths, starting in college where he "majored in football and minored in art" and including training as a police officer, working as a farm hand, and starting his own business mentoring struggling youths.

"Looking back now, those jobs were foundational in shaping and forming who I am today," he said. "Along the way, in every job and during each adventure, I met someone that spoke into my life and in every situation it was preparing me for this exact moment in my life. … This moment here is preparing me for the next."

In addition to embracing each new adventure, we need to celebrate the victories that come from never quitting, Scharinger said.

"It's through struggle that we really find out who we are and what we're made of," he said. "If you're like me you have these two voices in your head. … One voice is usually telling me to do things the easy or wrong way and the other one is telling me the right and healthy way to do things, even if it's hard."

Scharinger encouraged students to make mistakes, accept failure, try something new, work hard, and surround themselves with people who will hold you accountable and who love you.

"Each one of you are designed for something incredible," he said. "Start envisioning what that is, believe it, laser in on it, fight for it with everything you have. Embrace this next adventure and never quit!"

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