CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee celebrated the graduation of the Class of 2021 with a ceremony on the school’s football field on Friday, June 4.
Jr./Sr. High School principal Dianna Whitis welcomed those in attendance before introducing Caiden Duskey, Preble Shawnee’s 2021 class speaker.
Duskey began by relating her classes’ graduation to the 17-year cicadas which recently emerged.
“They’re insects that spend all of their developmental time in underground burrows. Like cicadas, we too spend our early years sheltered away from the worries of the world,” she said. “While cicadas do spend those years being comforted by the soils of the earth, and the ease of their own reality, they are not afforded the opportunities the outside world provides.”
Duskey said the cicadas had to leave their homes much like the Class of 2021 did when they first entered school at Preble Shawnee.
“When we took our first steps into Preble Shawnee, it was scary,” Duskey continued. “The thought of leaving our loved ones for a whole day was overwhelming. We soon learned that school wasn’t a scary place, but something new, something full of seriousness and laughter, boredom and adventure, learning and playing – memories.”
After reflecting on memories of football games, prom and school dances, Duskey concluded by relating the good work cicadas do to what can be done by the Class of 2021.
“We too can be like cicadas. Wherever your tree is in life, make it better. Make your community a better place. Allow those around you to benefit from your presence. Even your opposition, give them reason to respect you and appreciate you,” she said. “Be outspoken, make a difference, be a change for the good, even if it means you need to stand up and speak up to do so. Are our respective communities prepared for the emergence of the Class of 2021? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. They have no choice, because here we come. Congratulations Class of 2021.”
Preble Shawnee’s first valedictorian to speak was Michelle Bulach, who began by remembering those who couldn’t be at the ceremony.
“I also want to take a moment to think about all the people that couldn’t be here today,” she said. “Our class suffered many losses of parents, grandparents, and other family members and friends. But I know they’re all here and watching us on this special day. I would like to thank all the teachers and staff members, family and friends for all the support and memories from the past 13 years.”
Bulach reflected on trips to Kings Island and Washington D.C. as well as Shawnee’s athletic teams winning league titles.
“Over the years, we’ve had a few memorable driving moments too, like speeding tickets in the school zone and fender benders in the parking lot, which made a lot of people doubt our driving skills,” she joked.
“The word ‘hopefully’ has been said many times this past year in fear of things not turning out how we wanted. Hopefully we pass this test. Hopefully we can go to games and support our friends. Hopefully things can just go back to normal. We all wanted for our senior year to be a proper sendoff for us. But it wasn’t as normal as we hoped,” Bulach continued. “We didn’t get to go to sporting events like we wanted, [or] our last homecoming, and even had to take weeks off of our senior year. But, here we are, sitting side-by-side, or at least a few feet apart, about to walk across the stage. We are one of the strongest classes that have walked through the halls of Preble Shawnee, and when it comes to our futures, I’m not hopeful, but I’m positive that all of our futures are going to lead us to be the people we were meant to be.
Valedictorian Zoey Collins thanked her family, friends and faculty who led her to where she is now.
“Without your efforts and cooperation, I would not be here. I cannot thank you all enough. My success is not achieved alone,” she said. “My parents were there to offer support. My friends were there to offer an encouraging word, and my teachers were there to offer resources…Preble Shawnee will always have a special place in my heart as one of the most fun schools ever.”
Valedictorian Brooke Dalton took the opportunity to thank her friends and family for supporting her as well as her teachers for devoting themselves to her education.
“Today, we become high school graduates. The home of the Arrows is now also the home of tomorrow’s doctors and lawyers, teachers and psychologists, photographers and engineers, physical therapists and nurses,” she said. “No matter how each of us has felt about the past several years of our lives here at Preble Shawnee, what is important now is that we are all here tonight to celebrate our triumphs, our achievements, our victories as individuals and as a school, and the journey on which we have embarked towards our future destinations.”
She continued: “If you’re like me, I’m sure that you can agree when I say that I would give anything for just one more experience with these memories. To the Class of 2021, I appreciate the time that I’ve been able to spend with each and every one of you. Whether it’s a simple ‘hi’ in the hallway, or a late night conversation at Wings after a football game, each of you have had an incredible impact on my life and the person I am today. Without all of you, I would not be me.”
Dalton said self doubt will stand in the way of an open door at some point, but citing examples such as Albert Einstein not speaking until age four and Michael Jordon getting cut from his high school basketball team, she said Preble Shawnee has taught the Class of 2021 to never let someone tell you that you can’t do something.
“As I conclude this speech, I want to leave you all with a quote from one of my favorite shows, Grey’s Anatomy,” Dalton said. “Meredith Grey once said, ‘Life is not a spectator sport. Win, lose or draw, the game is in progress, whether we want it to be or not. So go ahead, argue with the refs, change the rules, cheat a little, take a break, and tend to your wounds, but play. Play hard, play fast, play loose and free. Play as if there’s no tomorrow.’”
Valedictorian Jacy Johnson began her speech in a humorous tone, saying, “The following presentation is available courtesy of 13 years of the Preble Shawnee School District’s public education system. Any ideas or themes are not subject to further explanation. Laughter is encouraged but not required. Any children left unattended will be confiscated and sold back into the school district. This speech was made possible by Dunkin Donuts, procrastination and viewers like you.”
Johnson continued: “When we first entered that red brick building, none of us knew what to expect, but what we did know is that we were going to support each other through thick and thin, and that our high school would do just the same. That’s what’s great about living in a small town. No matter the obstacle you’re facing, the person you’re looking for always seems to be right there. Or at Walmart, when you’re wearing your, ‘I’ll be fine. No one’s gonna see me,’ outfit.”
Johnson thanked the staff as well as family and friends for being there for her.
“You could be sitting by Preble County’s next veterinarian, Brooke Dalton, or Nevaeh Gayhart, our future Picasso. Many of you are going to be future healthcare workers, teachers and electricians as well. Regardless of the career path you choose, you will not be forgotten. Think about it. You could even be sitting next to professional racecar and demolition derby drivers. I’m looking at you, Maggie Schmidt and Madison [Hibbard]. Regardless of this, what I’m trying to say is that this isn’t a ‘goodbye,’ but simply a ‘see you in two to 10 years from now when we’re all significantly smarter, hotter and funnier.’”
Preble Shawnee’s final valedictorian, Brittanie Smith, started her speech by thanking teachers at Preble Shawnee and the Miami Valley Career Technology Center for supporting her throughout the years.
“Though not all of my time has been spent here at Preble Shawnee, I am still very happy that I can call this my home school. I remember my very first day here in the ninth grade; I was a new kid. I didn’t have any friends, or anyone I can relate to. However, I very quickly began to feel welcomed,” she said. “The staff and students here are some of the most helpful, heartwarming, generous people I’ve ever met in my life. Everyone acted so quickly to make me feel comfortable. I made friends quickly and had support coming at me from all angles, which highly contributed to my success as a student, and I could not be more grateful for that.”
Smith said the Class of 2021 will soon move on to bigger things, and while everyone is closing this chapter of their lives, they will all have the memories they have created.
“I want to congratulate all of you for your accomplishments. We have all worked very hard, especially this year,” she said. “COVID threw a lot of us off with how sudden and severe of a change and made in our lives. It was hard to adjust to the way things became, but look at us. We did it. We are the Class of 2021. We are strong. We are brave. We are smart. And again, congratulations Class of 2021.”
Following the speeches, outgoing superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop congratulated the Class of 2021.
“This school year was certainly one for the record books. We endured masks, mandates, social distancing, assigned seats at lunch, temperature checks, and quarantine. Lots and lots of quarantine,” he said. “I was so proud of how resilient our students and staff were during the whole process. As your superintendent, I am so grateful to each and every one of you, as senior class leaders of our high school, for working with us to help make this school year as normal as possible.”
Bishop then announced scholarship recipients for the Class of 2021, which included a total of $509,450 dispersed to 46 students.
Bishop also recognized the members of the Class of 2021 who have enlisted in the United States military: Cole Allen and Korbin Hitte Huff (United States Marine Corps), Ethan Talbott (United States Air Force).
Graduates’ names were called by Jr./Sr. High School assistant principal Roger Ellis, and diplomas were presented by Board of Education President Julie Singleton.
Class President Brooke Dalton then led the class in the traditional turning of the tassel, and a fireworks display followed as graduates threw their caps in the air.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles