NT grads encouraged to be ‘Trail blazers’


NEW PARIS — National Trail High School’s Class of 2024 was celebrated with commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 24.

The class of 59 members earned over $382,000 in scholarships. Twenty-eight of the students planned to further their education at the college level, and 21 of them intended to enter the workforce. Four members of the class will be joining the U.S. Armed Forces.

NT High School Principal Mike Eyler welcomed those in attendance. “The students seated before you have worked for 13 years to reach another significant milestone in their lifelong journey,” he said. “Class of 2024, I feel very privileged to stand before a class which could only be described as small but mighty. While viewing overall number of the achievements, the impact and legacy you have left our district will be remembered for years to come.”

He recognized some of the achievements members of the class had acquired, from earning their Eagle Scout to completing an internship or apprenticeship, and even already earning an associates degree. “All of these accomplishments are in addition to the myriad other awards and accolades the class of 2024 has earned over the years. Keeping that in mind graduates, I want you to keep that energy going after you leave this gymnasium tonight, continue to achieve and push yourselves to greater accomplishments,” he said.

“Class of 2024 you have consistently raised the bar for yourselves, and do not stop now,” Eiler continued. “Go out there and be the best at what you do. Innovate in your jobs, build up your communities, and above all else do good in this world. Your educators, your family and your friends will all be behind you cheering you on. After high school, many of our students will take different paths. Some will join the workforce, some will join the military, and others will head off to a two or four year post secondary education institution to continue their education.”

“I would like to take the time to thank all the educators, administrators, aides, counselors, nurses, staff and bus drivers,” Class President Eleanor Hake said in her address. “You’ve set an amazing example and tone for all of us, not just scholastically, but morally as well.”

“Fellow classmates, today marks a significant milestone in our lives as we stand here together for the final time on the threshold of our future. It is only natural to look back at our journey together this art. Collectively, we have overcome countless challenges, celebrate a numerous victories and forge lasting friendships along the way. But today is not about what we’ve accomplished. It’s about what we leave behind. And more importantly, what lies ahead,” Hake continued. “Here at National Trail, we have several villages and a few cornfields in between and what may seem to the outside world, as the humblest of beginnings is really the perfect recipe to create a sturdy foundation that will allow each of us to excel beyond our wildest dreams. We have learned that hard work will overcome many obstacles. We have learned that even though we are small together we are mighty. We have learned that we can accomplish anything we want. And we are only limited by our own imagination. We have learned all these things because we have a village. We have a village that cares prays, loves, prepares, guides and nurtures.”

“As many of you know, I don’t express myself like how my peers express themselves, or even how many of the other people who live near us express themselves,” Salutatorian Aiden Pearson shared in his address to the class. “With that comes stares, laughs, negative competent — comments from people you don’t even know for simply being true to yourself, even if it may be different from the majority of people sitting next to you. Yet the truth is, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks thinks of you. And the only the only person you need to please is yourself. Putting yourself first and loving yourself. No matter what the world thinks of you can be hard. People are cruel, and will do everything to do everything they can to make you feel smaller than them. Learning to accept others. Just the way you accept yourself is something everyone here should work on.

“You will never be able to take back the hateful things that you’ve said in the past, but there’s always time to improve not only for your family, your friends, but for yourself,” he continued. “Cherish the people around you and love them unconditionally despite the differences because no one has made the same. And everyone has the right to be their own unique self no matter how anyone else perceives you. I would like to end this all by saying, don’t settle. That’s something very simple yet so important. Don’t settle in a place you don’t love. Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t build you and others up. Don’t settle for friends that don’t support you. Settle for nothing but perfection. Don’t get stuck in repetition that doesn’t fit you.”

“This high school journey, which seemed not too long ago, has come to an end whether we want it to or not. We have had fun times, sad times, and hard times pushing through many obstacles. All of us have taken different paths done different things and have accomplished great things,” Valedictorian Blake Oswald said. “I have learned working hard it had a cost though. Sometimes taking the fun out of almost everything I did. Spending hours late at night doing homework, combined with harvest in the fall FFA in the other activities I did throughout my high school journey sometimes made it difficult to enjoy the work I was doing and the life I was having. Of course it all worked out in the end. And that’s why, were I to do it all again, I probably wouldn’t have done anything differently except maybe lighten my workload a little bit and focus more on my faith so that maybe I could have coped with my overwhelming stress better.

“The point is, I think sometimes we worry too much about the highway ahead of us that we forget to take the time to absorb the surroundings around us and use the best of it. Whether we like it or not, we will experience rough patches in our lives. And most of time, there’s nothing we can do to stop them. The best thing we can do is keep pushing through knowing that we will be okay as long as we keep optimistic, keep our head up and keep our faith,” he told those in attendance.

“On behalf of the Class of 2024, I want to thank everyone who has helped us along the way — our teachers, our family, our friends, and everyone who has taken time in our life to get where we are today,” Oswald continued. “Things will be different without some of you next year and we will never forget the impact you have made on our lives for us to get here and get where we want in the future. To the class of 2024, it is an honor to be your valedictorian and a part of our class. I can’t wait to see what some of us do and what other great things we accomplished later on. Remember to keep your faith be kind, never give up. Be diligent in labor, just in your dealings, and above all, be honest and fair in the game of life.”

Preble County Common Please Court Judge Stephen R. Bruns served as commencement speaker during the ceremony, reflecting on his own graduation from Trail in 1976, reflecting on memories of his graduation and sharing his own words of advice for the graduates.

“I’m going to ask just the graduates, please stand and give a round of applause to your faculty members. If a teacher who’s here today was particularly inspiring to you, before you leave, go up to them and tell them how much they meant to you. I guarantee it will mean the world to them,” Bruns said.

Among his reflections and advice, Bruns encouraged the class to develop empathy. “After living a long time on this planet, I have concluded that developing empathy as a primary key to happiness,” he shared. “Many problems stem from an unwillingness or inability to consider other people as fellow human beings, and to see things from another person’s perspective. We certainly don’t have to agree on everything. But all people have a right to be treated respectfully, and with dignity.”

Bruns also spoke of honesty. “The second piece of life advice that I would like to give is a lesson that I learned from my father. He likes to say, if a person has to tell you how honest they are, check your wallet. In my experience — and I’ve been around long enough that I get reduced price movie tickets — for a genuinely honest person, their honesty is simply a part of who they are. Consequently, they feel no need to broadcast that they are truthful. For them bragging about honesty is akin to bragging that you can breathe in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. It is to them simply not worthy of comment. Inauthentic people are typically insecure, and feel compelled to try to convince you how great they are. Be wary of people who tell you how honest they are, how religious they are, or what a great deal they have for you. If something seems too good to be true, then it is, let your character and your actions speak for themselves and evaluate other people the same way. Words are cheap. A person’s behavior contains much more about them than any word ever can,” he shared.

“Third, I want to encourage you to try to live a life of purpose,” he said. “We all experienced the disruptive consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic that were without precedent. I know it impacted your class in a particularly unfortunate way because you missed out on your eighth grade trip to Washington. And I will tell you that is no small thing. One of the defining moments in my life came when I visited Washington for the first time.”

“Everything that we saw and did during those days in Washington, instilled in me, a devotion to America’s fundamental principles, democracy, the quality and the rule of law,” Bruns continued. “That experience led me to my chosen career and my involvement in government and politics. When I give instructions to the jury, I tell them that the two ways that all citizens are asked to participate in our democracy are by voting and by serving on a jury when called. Both are absolutely essential for our country and our justice system to work. But I want to ask you to do more than that. First, dedicate yourselves to continuing to read and to learn…Secondly, get involved in your community. Whether it’s running for town council or the school board, volunteering to help coach in youth sports or anything else that interests you. Use at least a part of your time on this earth to make the world a better place.

“And finally, I want to encourage you to live up to the name of your school, being a real ‘Trailblazer,” Bruns said. “Dare to venture out into new territory yourselves. Once you do take a few bold steps, you will find it ever easier to blaze your own new and exciting trail, and fulfill your own hopes and dreams.”

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on X @emowenjr.

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