NEW PARIS — National Trail’s class of 2017 graduated on Friday, May 26, a class Superintendent Jeff Parker said was “second to none.”
The ceremony found unique ways to highlight the students’ different skills and dedication. For example the choir, with two graduating students, performed the National Anthem. Dalton Smith, a student who has enlisted in the Marines and is soon shipping out for boot camp, led the audience and the 80 graduating seniors in the Pledge of Allegiance. Graduating Senior Peyton Harrison led the audience in the invocation.
In a tradition started four years ago, Parker had NT alumni stand to show the graduates who had walked before them. Parker said the tradition was created as a way to show the students the National Trail community will always surround them.
This was not the only time the graduates had a chance to glimpse their future, as the chosen guest speaker was also an NT alumnus (Class of 1995) – Jeff Hans, who is a sixth-season women’s basketball coach at Thomas Moore College.
Hans spoke about the future and being flexible in one’s career path. He told his story — his entire life he was sure he wanted to be a farmer — but his life took a turn and it turned out to be for the better.
He said, “Everyone says this generation, the ‘Millennials’, have everything at your fingertips. They’re right. Compared to 22 years ago when I was sitting in these seats, we had no cellphones and no tablets. There was definitely no iPod or iPad. No Pandora, no iheartradio, no Spotify, and no Snapchat. You guys do have everything. Remember those Staples’ commercials? With the red easy button? This is something that you guys have grown up with.
“You need to dig deep, show your confidence, and plow over the competition. If you want something bad enough, work hard and put that goal into reach. Confucius once said, ‘The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential, these are all keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.’
“Going into Starbucks and trying to decide what frappuccino you want, that is not a tough decision. Trying to figure out fast food restaurant you’re going to each day after school is not a tough decision. I know that there are different answers for those. When you grow and mature, the questions you’re going to answer yourself are going to get tough. Questions like, who are you going to be? What should I choose for my college major? How many times do I chance my major? Hopefully not too many.
“It is important that you have a sound plan for the near future, but don’t be afraid to change your direction. That’s what I did. I wasn’t afraid. I grew up on a farm just down the road and I always thought I wanted to go into the farming industry. When I was in college I had the opportunity to go coach the local high school, be an assistant coach. I loved working with the young people so much I wanted to continue teaching the game.
“You will learn to fail or fail to learn, but at the end of the day you will look back and be very satisfied with the path you journeyed. Whatever you want to do for the future, it is upon your hands to set your goals high and dream big. To help you achieve these goals and dreams, surround yourself with good people with similar values.”
During his address, Superintendent Parker shared that he has no doubts that the Class of 2017’s futures will be successful. He said,”This group was entering seventh grade when I started at National Trail. I can tell you overall, they have had excellent character the entire time. I truly believe their character is the reason they have experienced tremendous growth, both academically and outside of the classroom over this time.
“In my time as an educator, and I won’t say how long that’s been though it goes beyond the six years here, this class is second to none. Your futures are bright and I am looking forward to you coming back and sharing your successes,” Hans said.
When it was time for student addresses, senior class president Tyler Glander did his through a pre-recorded video. He could not be present for the ceremony as he was competing at regionals in Troy. Glander has committed to the University of Findlay and will be majoring in Business Management.
National Trail’s Class of 2017 had two valedictorians – Austin Green took the podium for his speech first. Green plans to attend Wright State University in the fall with a major in computer science. During his time, he talked about the lessons he learned for high school, according to Green the most important being, “We can do it.” He also thanked his family and friends for their support over the years.
Next, valedictorian Faith King, who will attend Kent State with a major in journalism, took the stage. She began with an exercise for the audience to participate in. She had them imagine that they were in a doorway with only a flashlight and a camera. As King walked the audience through the different doorways, she began to tell stories of her youth, such as her first day of school.
“Eventually you come to the end of the hallway — there’s another door and you’re stunned. This one is bigger, brighter, and fancier,” she said. “’Open it,’ a voice says in your head. ‘No, don’t do that, this one is different, you don’t know what might lie in wait,’ says a voice, this one louder than the last. ‘Open it.’”
She concluded, “This last door did not lead you here. It led you, it led us, to a world of opportunity. In this world, there are more doors, each one leading to another door at another time.”
It was announced during the ceremony that the class of 2017 earned a total combined amount of $473,210 in scholarships. As the graduating class, 60 out of 80 plan to attend some sort of post-secondary education. Smith is the only senior who has formally enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces. The rest of the class has plans to enter the workforce.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH