WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley South High School celebrated the Class of 2021 graduates with a commencement ceremony held on the school’s football field on Thursday, May 27.
Valedictorian and Senior Class President Shelby Gearhart kicked off the festivities by thanking those present for their support over the past year.
“We are grateful for the ability to have family, friends and community members join us for this special occasion,” Gearhart said.
7-12 Principal Derek Flatter then addressed the class before introducing Board of Education members and other guests.
“Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 experiments trying to create unnatural light with the use of electricity. The one-thousandth and first time, the light bulb was created,” Flatter told the assembled graduates. “One thousand times the greatest inventor of the modern era failed.”
Flatter urged the graduates to persevere despite whatever “disappointing obstacles” life might put in their way.
“We can learn a great deal from Mr. Edison,” Flatter said.
Flatter also thanked the school district’s secretaries, educational aides, food service personnel, custodial staff, bus drivers, and teachers for their service.
“Please stand and be recognized,” Flatter told the staff members present, who received a round of enthusiastic applause.
Allison Bassler was the first of six valedictorians to address her classmates, urging them to “look back at all the triumphs we have made, and look forward to the ones we will make in the future.”
Bassler thanked her dance instructors, soccer and cheerleading coaches, and other school personnel, as well as her parents and brother, for their support during her high school career, and credited her younger sister with inspiring her to achieve her dreams.
“Twelve years ago, you made me a big sister. And more importantly, you made me your role model,” Bassler said. “From then on, I had to remember that I had two little eyes looking up to me in everything I did.”
Sydney Bezich also had words of gratitude for family, friends, and teachers.
“Every one of my teachers has left an impact on me, whether it be a grammar rule, a life lesson, or an interesting story,” Bezich said. “Every person we meet, I believe, leaves a part of themselves with us.”
Bezich thanked her father for letting her “finally fulfill [her] dream of getting chickens when the world shut down,” though she lamented the fact she would not be able to take them with her to college.
“If anyone would like a flock of eight healthy, fully grown one-year-old hens, please see me after,” Bezich said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
Liberty Chesney stressed the importance of “care, patience, understanding and forgiveness” when dealing with oneself, or with others who may be going through a difficult time.
“Of all the lessons I have learned throughout my years of high school, one of the most important has been to allow room for grace in every situation – especially those that are most unfavorable,” Chesney said. “Extending grace to others is a difficult lesson to learn, but even more difficult is learning to extend grace to yourself.”
Jayla Denlinger underlined the particular difficulties faced by the Class of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This day marks the end of our academic journey – the summit of our academic mountain,” Denlinger said. “I’m sure all of us would agree when I say that our mountain seemed to be taller than most.”
Denlinger referenced a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. about hewing “a stone of hope out of a mountain of despair.”
“That stone of hope, whatever it may be, has gotten us through this crazy year,” Denlinger said.
Gearhart returned to the stage to encourage her classmates to become the best versions of themselves.
“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are,” Gearhart said, relaying a quote from American businessman and writer Max De Pree.
Sarah Homan recounted how she’d been shaped by her faith, as well as by the loss of her mother to a terrible illness.
“I have come to understand that alcohol, cancer and dementia do not care about my pain, but God does,” Homan said. “He has moved through my life even in those painful and difficult times.”
Homan urged her classmates to find similar comfort from their own pain.
“God won’t always take you out of a difficult situation, but he will use it to help you grow,” Homan said. “Each one of us has felt pain – the loss of a pet, a friend moves away, a grandparent passes. Pain does not care about us, but God does.”
Flatter then presented the Class of 2021 to Board of Education President Tim Beneke and recommended them for graduation, “with all the rights and privileges thereto assigned.” Beneke then congratulated the assembled graduates.
“The Board of Education wishes you the best in your future endeavours, and good luck,” Beneke said before accepting the class for graduation. Beneke, board Vice President Christine Bitner, and Superintendent Scott Cottingim then presented the students with their diplomas, followed by a ceremony in which the graduates carried flowers to family members present.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish