NEW PARIS — National Trail High School honored its Class of 2021 graduates with an indoor commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 29, after the original outdoor event was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Graduating senior Molly Skinner opened the ceremony by leading her fellow graduates in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Classmate Jaidyn Trout then led the students and guests in a moment of prayer.
High School principal Mike Eyler praised the accomplishments of the Class of 2021.
“These students seated before you have worked for 13 years to reach another significant milestone in their lifelong journey,” Eyler told the assembled guests.
Eyler then introduced members of the National Trail Board of Education and other special guests, and thanked various school district staff members for their hard work over the past year before asking them to stand and be recognized.
Eyler also thanked those who helped organize the quickly rescheduled event.
“When we made the difficult decision to postpone graduation, calls were made, emails were sent, and the next thing I knew we had an entire team of Blazers here working to get this venue set up for tonight,” Eyler said.
Class President Cameron Harrison began by addressing the challenges faced by his classmates due to COVID-19.
“With the year we’ve had, you could look at it two ways: either glass half full or glass half empty,” Harrison said. “I choose to look at it as half full. Going into this year, we didn’t know if we’d have in-person school or if we’d be looking at a screen all day. We didn’t know if we’d have sports, or what they’d look like if we did have them. But in the end we were given so many great opportunities.”
Salutatorian Olivia Birdsall talked about the difference between a rural school like National Trail and the larger one she previously attended.
“I was only able to be a part of the Blazer family for a year and a half,” Birdsall said. “I came from a big high school where you hardly get to know anybody. But here, everyone knows everyone. Everyone was welcoming and willing to help me if I needed it.”
Birdsall also referenced the uncertainties of COVID-19.
“When COVID started, we thought we were just getting an extra week of spring break,” Birdsall said. “But it ended up being the rest of our junior year.”
Valedictorian Caleb Van Winkle, meanwhile, scored laughs from the audience by describing the “stage fright” he’d experienced while thinking about his speech the night before.
“I sat in my room, and the only thing I was thinking was, ‘Don’t go onstage and embarrass yourself!’” Van Winkle said. “So, I’m going to do the best I can.”
Van Winkle urged his classmates to persevere in the face of life’s challenges.
“Someone once told me that high school shouldn’t be the best four years of your life… the best years are to come,” Van Winkle said. “We’ll continue to face challenges in life that will make us stronger, but you must tell yourself that no matter how hard it is, you’re going to make it. I have faith that every single student here will do amazing things with their life.”
2011 National Trail graduate Dr. Marisa Schaar urged the Class of 2021 to embrace change and uncertainty.
“It’s okay to not know what you want to do. It’s okay to change what you want to do,” Schaar said. “If you’re walking out of here unsure of what’s next, find a passion and pursue it. If it’s two months, two years, or two decades down the road, please realize that if the path you’re on isn’t the one for you, you have the strength to stop, change your direction, and do what truly sets your soul on fire.”
Schaar closed her remarks with her own bit of humor.
“Ellen DeGeneres once said, ‘Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, and never follow someone else’s path – unless you’re in the woods, and you get lost, and you see a path; then, by all means, please take that path,’” Schaar said. “And lastly, from the great Bob Barker, ‘Please do your part in controlling the pet population. Spay and neuter your pets.’”
Eyler and Board of Education members David Harris, Cindy Lee, Greg McWhinney, Gary Moore, and Mindy Ward presented the graduates with their diplomas.
Eyler then presented the Class of 2021 to the board and recommended them for graduation, followed by a ceremony in which the students gave flowers to family members present.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish