CLAYTON — Tri-County North High School celebrated the graduation of 77 students during commencement exercises held Thursday, May 24, at Salem Church of God.
“This is a special group of young men and women we honor tonight. This class has set goals in the classroom on the athletic field and in their personal lives, which are second to none. Tonight, we award them a high school diploma which means that they have completed a rigorous course of study to prepare them for their future,” Superintendent Bill Derringer said. “What they have learned in school, combined with what they have learned at home will arm them with the necessary skills for success. We are certain that this class will be successful because throughout their school years they haven’t demonstrated a high degree of accomplishment. They have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that they possess all tools to be both competitive and compassionate as they enter their chosen career fields.”
The class had seven valedictorians: Olivia Baldasare, Ethan Cooley, Lauren Koenig, Jacob Offenbacker, Hailey Thies, Emma Tobias and Kevin Tomlin.
Ashley Johnson was the salutatorian.
“Well, Class of 2018, we’ve officially made it,” Thies said.
“We’re finally graduating. This is a day for some of us that brings great joy. As it’s the very day we’ve been looking forward to since we started our schooling career. For others, this day brings great sadness as its the end to a memorable phase of a life with friendships and memories that will be cherished forever. And if you’re anything like me your heart will be somewhere in between,” Thies said. “A quote from CS Lewis once stated ‘there are far, far better things ahead than any that we leave behind.’ And this is a quote that I truly come to in the season of newness that is on the horizon for not only me, but for my fellow seniors in the room. The point that I’m trying to get across with this quote is this, no matter how good, how bad, how easy or how hard that high school was for you, the legacy will be longer. This is truly just the beginning to a wondrous life.”
Offenbacker shared his story, one of being a “shy introverted person,” but coming out of it. “I didn’t want to be a ghost walking among people, never reaching out to others, never getting involved, never going outside my comfort zone. No, my life needed to change, and so I did. I got involved in student organizations, began going out more and most of all, I began to talk to people, to live in the moment, and that is the message I wish to share with you all tonight. While we all venture off into the next chapter of our lives, don’t forget to live a little. It is so easy to allow our lives to be absorbed into our work and become so invested in preparing for later, that we forget to appreciate today and the now, so when you’re in school or working or raising a family or whatever else life may have you do, never forget the little things. Go and see that movie you want to watch,” he encouraged his classmates.
“Go on that date with that person you cared about. Go and grab a bite to eat and watch the game with your friends, because these are the moments that make up our lives now and allow us to enjoy living. Not only just preparing for later. A wise person once said that yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That is why it’s called the present. Never forget to live in the present, and take time to enjoy yourself, because this is the one life that you get. Make it a memorable one.”
“We have all spent our share of time remembering 13 years of school, and I’m sure we all have memories of different things we did and learned along the way,” Tobias said. “I want to share is a saying that comes to mind. That saying is called ‘Seize the moment.’ This means that you should put little trust in tomorrow. In other words, we should enjoy ourselves now. None of us are promised a tomorrow, so it’s up to us to live for the moment. Many of us have lost someone special in our lives, whether that be a parent, or a grandparent or even a classmate. What I’ve learned over the past four years is to stop waiting and start living. I’ve learned to say yes to what is important and to know what’s not. I’ve also learned to step out of my comfort zone and to be courageous and show that I really feel love as much as I can. Take chances. Hope you all do the same.”
“I’d first like to give all the glory and thanks to God for the opportunities he’s given me,” Tomlin said. “I won’t stand up here and bore you with the same graduation speech. You all know success takes hard work. You should all take some risks in life and make the best of what you are given. Each of our journeys to get here has been different. It will be just as different when we leave here tonight. Some of us are off to college. Some of us have finished apprenticeships and are off to work on our trade, and as usual — as usual — some of us have no idea what we’re going to do, or how he even got here. Doesn’t matter. One thing we all did — we all made our parents proud. We are now getting ready to step off into new adventures. Are we ready? Are we excited or are we terrified? The answer to all three is yes, but no matter, we know that we will continue moving forward. I’ll leave you with this motto from Walt Disney. He said all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Baldasare shared her story of persevering with the help of the Tri-County North community. “I could have let the tragic event in my life define me and own me,” she said. “I could’ve quit going to school and let my grades slip, but I refuse to let negativity win. I chose to let my reaction define who I was, instead of the tragedy itself. When uncontrollable tragedies come about, remember to search for that light in your life and that positivity, and make it right. Make it outshine everything else that’s in your mind. Focus all your energy into it and illuminate it. Because your life will only get brighter from there. To my classmates, I would like to thank all of you for being a part of my life and creating so many memories for me that I will cherish forever. As we close this chapter, and start with a fresh, clean slate next year, I hope that you learn that no matter what’s trying to take you down, to persevere and to cling to that light that you have been given. I did not let that negativity win. I will really miss you. I hope that all of you will be able to call Tri-County North your forever home, because I know that I will.”
The TCN Class of 2018 earned scholarships totaling $562,340.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH