By: Amy Wendt
As implied by their class motto, “With both direction and magnitude” by Vector, Pettisville’s graduating class of 2023 is officially ready to make its mark on the world.
On May 21, 2023, 41 students received their diplomas during the commencement ceremony that celebrated the students’ achievements.
Prelude to the ceremony was provided by Class of 2024 student, Sophie Sterken who played beautiful piano music while guests found their seats.
As the board and faculty began the Processional, a beautiful rendition of “Alma Mater” was performed by the high school choir.
High School Principal, Adam Wagner opened the commencement by recognizing the 14 students who received the Ohio Diploma with Honors, and who were on the National Honor Society.
While at the microphone, Wagner also took the time to recognize Mr. John Poulson who will be retiring with 33 years of service at Pettisville High School.
Class President, Leah Beck then stepped up to the podium to welcome guests.
Attention once again shifted to the high school choir with the senior members joining them in their caps and gowns and singing “Seeds Grow to Plants,” while Sophie Sterken accompanied them on the piano.
Superintendent Josh Clark then took the microphone and recognized long-time kindergarten teacher Lisa Aeschliman who will also be retiring at the end of the school year.
Clark then addressed the graduating class and closed with a challenge. “I’ll leave you with one challenge as you head out on your exciting futures.”
“Before the high school awards assembly, the other day you gathered out in the gallery to have your picture taken with those who had gone before you.”
“To me, the gallery is a sacred hallway that tells a story of Pettisville’s rich history and unique experiences.”
“Each face in each graduating class in bygone years represents hopes, dreams, and promises for the future.”
“Those Blackbirds have paved the way for you and soon, you’ll be added to the gallery of legacies forever.”
“My challenge to you is to make them proud and to always remember where you came from.”
“Remember to always make time for your grandparents and to love and honor your parents as they release you into your next journey.”
“Class of ‘23, our doors will always be open to you. You will always be Blackbirds. Come back often but never ever be afraid to spread your wings and fly.”
The first of the class speakers, Leah Beck then returned to the podium where she recalled how the COVID shutdown impacted the Class of ‘23.
“Freshman year, our worlds were completely shaken. For over a year, we worried that we would be quarantined and learn from home again, miss our sports, music events, and more.”
“Not many people can say that senior year is their first normal year of high school, but we all can, and we have made the most of every moment.”
Beck then went on to say, “We have all faced adversity throughout our time at Pettisville but none of us chose to be defeated.”
“We leaned on each other for support through hard times like COVID, difficult choices, and other challenges and we got stronger through it all…Pettisville School is truly a special place because of this.”
“We’ve had the opportunity to personally know everyone in our class, plus people in other classes, school staff, and even elementary students.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to grow up and learn in. The relationships we have formed at Pettisville are life changing.”
Sean Adkins, the second of the class speakers, then took his turn on the mic.
“I know it sounds cliche, but the class of ‘23 is like a family. You don’t get to choose your family.”
“When I moved here in the eighth grade from the beautiful state of Florida, I didn’t choose my classmates. But because of that, I have been able to form bonds that I never would have before.”
“And these people here (gesturing to the rest of the class), I’d say from my completely unbiased perspective, we are an amazing class.”
Adkins then elicited chuckles from the crowd when he produced a long scroll and proceeded to read all of the class of 2023 accomplishments.
Elise Hoylman, the final class speaker then took the podium. “Each of us has the potential to do phenomenal things in this world,” Hoylman began.
“We are one of the most connected, resourceful generations on the planet and we can use that for so much good.”
“So, I pose this question to you. How are going to use the opportunities and knowledge that you’ve gained in high school to change the world as you are sent out into it?”
“How are you going to let your unique perspective e as a student from a K-12 school of less than 500 kids make wherever you go a more thoughtful, beautiful place?”
After pointing out some specific examples of lessons the class has learned while in school, Hoylman concluded her speech, “Now, let’s toss those caps and start leaving a legacy of kindness and generosity.”
Following the speeches, the Senior Choir members sang a rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” while Sean Adkins accompanied on acoustic guitar.
Mr. Wagner then presented the Citizenship Award, noting that it was the highest award presented to a senior in the high school.
The award is based on the following criteria: scholarship, support of the school, participation and leadership, and personality, character, and attitude.
After recognizing all four individuals who were nominated for the Citizenship Award, Wagner announced that the award would go to Leah Beck.
Superintendent Clark returned to the podium to certify that the Class of 2023 had met all requirements, and the presentation of diplomas took place immediately after.
The choir then performed “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” and the class president offered a closing prayer before instructing the seniors to move their tassels to the other side signifying that they were officially graduates.
With a joyful cap toss outside following the ceremony, the Pettisville High School Class of 2023 marked the beginning of their journey to make a positive change in the world.
Amy can be reached at email@example.com
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