NEW PARIS — The National Trail Class of 2018 celebrated graduation on Friday, May 25, but it was with a heavy heart they remembered a classmate they lost in early 2017.
To remember Olivia Starr Wallace, the class kept a cap and gown in a seat for her, and her mother, Christina Stover, accepted her diploma.
Wallace passed away on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, the result of a car crash. She attended National Trail high school and MVCTC. She was involved in cheer, soccer, and dance. She also worked at Skyline Chili. She would have graduated with the Class of 2018.
Including Wallace, there were 80 National Trail seniors who graduated in the Class of 2018. This class earned $432,997 in scholarships. Of the graduating seniors, 46 plan to continue their education, 14 plan to go into the workforce, two have enlisted to join the armed forces, and the rest are undecided at this point.
This was not the only time Wallace was mentioned, as Senior Class President Katie Buehner and Valedictorian Erika Gallaher both referenced her loss during their speeches.
Buehner referenced the loss many students have experienced throughout these four years at National Trail, but also stressed the importance of remembering all her classmates have gained as well.
“High school has been the time of loss for many of us, from family members to friends to the dreams we had when we were younger. The most important thing is all we have gained. We have made many connections that will last a lifetime. We have grown up these last four years and will continue to do so,” Buehner said.
“What I am most thankful for is the help we have received along the way. We would not be who we are and we would not have accomplished all we have without you. Throughout all the loss, it is important that we remember all that we have gained.”
Gallaher began her address by congratulating her classmates, noting that the world is now changing for them. She then said, that is not a unique feeling for the Class of 2018 and dubbed them the “class of change.”
She said, “If anything is going to change, it is going to happen to this class. Lets think of a few examples: we were the first class who did not have to take the OGTs, we had two different principals, two guidance counselors, three athletic directors, five Spanish teachers, four French teachers, four different English teachers, two softball coaches, three football coaches, three soccer coaches, and four cheer coaches.
“We also all got school laptops for the very first time, we changed grading scales in between one of our school years, we changed up the graduation stage, and we even lost a classmate. Much like life, there has been no shortage of change for our class. Many of these changes were for the good, they taught us lessons that helped shape us into the individuals we are today.
“Through change, we have truly found resilience. These changes won’t stop here. In fact, they have only just begun. Growing is inevitable, but change is optional. I have seen you all change every day, but I hope you continue to grow in the future. It is up to you to accept the changes that arise.”
Salutatorian Chloe Anderson decided to discuss her journey with the Class of 2018, as she stated, she has no advice for her classmates, as she is in the same situation as them.
“Journeys are a funny thing, because a lot of the time we focus on the destination, but I have been told to enjoy the journey too many times to discuss. We always ask if we’re there yet, so focused on the destination. As I’ve grown up, I’ve started to realize how important the journey is,” she said.
“We started this journey a few years ago, with the same goal in mind — to graduate. Graduation day seemed so distant, but here we are now. It is not so distant. We thought this would be the end, but it is just the beginning.”
Guest speaker this year was Donna Hall, who graduated from National Trail and went on to have a successful career in the media business.
“I stood in this gymnasium to graduate — it was hot then too,” she joked. “I remember wondering if I was really ready to go out in the world. I was uncertain if I had the tools I needed to be successful. I think my dad sensed that uncertainly in me, he wrote me a letter. In that letter, he he encouraged me to never forget what I learned growing up on a farm in Preble County.
“It is important for you to know that the foundation you need has been given to you right here at National Trail High School. The lessons start in a very basic and simple way, but it is important to note that rarely does success happen without hard work. I encourage you to work harder than anybody else.
“Lesson two, is there will be times when you are the smartest person in the room. Even when you are? You can learn something from every person in that room. I learn something new every day. I learn from my bosses, peers, people who report to me — I still learn from my mom and dad. Now, I have the honor of learning from my two sons. Be a sponge and look for opportunities to learn from other people.
“You need to accept responsibilities for your mistakes. Problem solve and figure out how to fix it. Understand why it was a mistake and do not make excuses. The next lesson is a hard one, that is to focus on you. Do not compare what others have. Focus on you and here is the key, be thankful. An attitude of thankfulness will carrying you through hard times.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH