By ZAK GRIMM
On Friday, May 19th, 2017, 106 senior students at Fredericktown High School moved together as a class into the next phases of their lives, as graduates of the Class of 2017. The class of 106 had many things to celebrate, including an impressive group of five Valedictorians, each of whom had inspiring words for their classmates.
Valedictorian Halle Campbell took a few minutes to celebrate and honor those whom played integral parts in the Class of 2017’s journey from Kindergarten to their senior year. Campbell acknowledged those staff members whom worked tirelessly behind the scenes each and every day.
“Some time ago, a group of Fredericktown leaders worked to secure the funding to build our school, and we were awarded the opportunity to attend a new, clean, beautiful building. Today, a tireless staff works to keep that building clean, beautiful and running smoothly,” said Campbell.
Campbell paid tribute to the many educators throughout the years with whom she and her classmates spent many hours in the classroom, as well as time outside the building. “Many of our teachers could be found working far past the end of the school day to plan lessons and grade papers. They could also be found on the sidelines, in the stands, or in the audience when supporting us in our extracurricular activities.”
Lastly, Campbell spoke for the Class of 2017 and their unwavering gratitude for their parents and families. “…The people who raised us, taught us how to tie our shoes, ride a bike, and tell the difference between right and wrong. They sometimes had to drag us out of bed in the morning so we weren’t late to the bus, and later they taught us how to drive ourselves. They’ve spent countless hours at our sporting events, plays, concerts, and school functions.”
“Without them, we wouldn’t be who we are today,” she said.
Valedictorian Wyat Harmon spoke about discovering a group of peers with whom he could fit best, and how it shaped his experience at Fredericktown. As such, that group–as well as the Class of 2017, pushed each other to be their best, both in the classroom and in their respective sports.
“Taking the time to be successful students as well as successful athletes can be very stressful. We had to learn to manage our time and keep good habits. Whether it be eating healthy or not giving in to peer pressure, we have all found ways to succeed,” Harmon said.
Valedictorian Ryan Matthews asked, “Who do you want to be? Not ‘what do you want to be.’ Who you want to be describes what kind of character you want to have. It is the adjectives that describe you as a person. It is the lasting legacy that we leave, the impact we have on others, and it is how we will be remembered by our school, our families, our friends, and our community. Our future depends on how that question is answered. Our future starts with never forgetting our hometown and the friends and family around us, and using that to help us find who we want to be. Now, it is our turn to take that final test, to answer that final question.”
Holly McClay spoke to the idea that each member of the Class of 2017 began their school careers with different plans. Many of those plans have changed. “But,” said McClay, “one concept has remained consistent: we still have hopes and desires for our future. Whether our future plans consist of working, going to college, or serving our country, this is a new step for each of us.”
“When I believe in myself through my confidence in Jesus Christ, I achieve so much more. Very frequently, our worst enemy is ourselves. We want to go after a goal, but our mindset restricts us. I challenge you to improve your mindset about yourself. Believe that you are good enough and that you can achieve your hopes and desires.”
Valedictorian Rachel Tumbelson guided the huge crowd of parents, families and supporters through many memories of the Class of 2017, touching on “simple, yet valuable lessons” from each.
“Microwaving s’mores at Camp Skeeter taught us that our limitations [fire] do not restrict what we can accomplish. Our second-grade inventor projects showed us that anyone is capable of making a difference. Our Ohio Achievement Tests taught us how to deal with pressure. In fourth grade, we learned it was probably not a good idea to pull people’s chairs out when they were about to sit down, and we faced a few playground injuries. This dangerous year taught us that our bodies are not invincible.”
Tumbelson acknowledged the challenges of the middle-school years, with a nod to how quickly things can change, just when they seem to be going smoothly. “Most of us experienced our first slow dance, boyfriend or girlfriend, and break up–all in about the span of a week. But, middle school was also the time to find yourself. For most of us, this is still a daily struggle,” she said, urging her classmates to dig deeper and continue to discover themselves.
High school taught Tumbelson and her classmates the skills of driving, working a real job, success in sports, managing money, balancing a full schedule, and mentoring younger students.
“As we leave here tonight and enter the big, scary world, there are difficult choices ahead. However, I believe that each of you have been equipped with the right morals and education to excel, wherever this life may take you,” she concluded.
Class President Cassidy Frazier reminded her classmates of whom most helped them get to the final destination of graduation. “…Our family, our friends, our teachers, our administration, our coaches, and everyone else in between. Without every single one of you, we wouldn’t have made it this far. You’ve pushed us to become the best we can be and to reach every single goal we ever set. We couldn’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done.”
“Now, we are here. We are done at Fredericktown High School. There isn’t going to be anymore late nights, cheering in the student section as some of your best friends sweat their butts off trying to win a basketball game. There isn’t going to be anymore walking down the hallway, making jokes with your friends. Everyone told us not to rush it, not to wish it away, because it’ll be over before you know it. They told us it’ll be over in the blink of an eye. Who would’ve thought that they’d be right?
“No matter where we all go, no matter what paths we all take, I hope and pray that each and every one of you is happy. When one door closes, another one opens, and I hope you find yourself still chasing your dreams. I hope that you never forget that you are loved, and I pray that you never feel alone in this world. Even when you fall down, find the courage to get back up and try again. I hope that you learn to believe in yourself.
“‘The rest of your life is being shaped right now with the dreams you chase, the choices you make and the person you decide to be. The rest of your life is a long time, and the rest of your life starts right now.’”
“Once a Freddie, always a Freddie,” Frazier said.
Superintendent Matt Chrispin acknowledged the great work of the custodial staff for the evening’s celebration of the Class of 2017, especially given that the plan had been to hold the graduation ceremony outside. Mother Nature had other plans, and the facilities crew quickly and expertly moved all the equipment inside. Sure enough, about an hour before the official start, the skies opened up.
“That [quick turnaround] is so emblematic of this staff, whom have given so much to this class. We see that in this class’s successes,” said Chrispin.
According to the numbers, the Class of 2017 had many successes, from many different angles. 47 of them went through every grade at Fredericktown, 44 are headed to four years of higher education, 22 will complete one- or two-year programs, and 31 students chose to complete college-credit-plus courses while at Fredericktown. Of those choosing higher education, 66 have earned over $97,000 in scholarships thus far. An incredible nine students have chosen to serve their country in the armed forces, and will begin doing so very soon.
Twenty-nine students will enter the workforce following graduation, and 33 took steps at some point during their high school career toward that goal, having attended the Knox County Career Center. That same number chose to succeed through at least one online class available to them. 68 students showcased their talents and abilities in either band or a sport. Two students chose to push themselves as far as their bodies would allow, having participated in band or a sport for 12 seasons–the entirety of their high school career. Two students fully committed to every hour of school in 2017, while one student impressively came to school every day for all four years at FHS.
Finally, according to the State of Ohio, The Class of 2017 boasted nearly a 97% four-year graduation rate, a feat that had not been reached by any class since these individuals were in 2nd grade.
Fredericktown School Board President Candi Gallagher knows the Class of 2017 well, and briefly spoke to that point. “Tonight is a reflection on the end of your high school career, and looking ahead to what your future holds. Whether heading of to college or your future job, you are taking the knowledge learned at Fredericktown to help you in your future endeavors.”
“Someone once said, the only constant in our lives is change. What a great statement that is, and how relevant it is to all of you today. Tonight marks the culmination of years of hard work, and it is a worthy way to celebrate your success. Looking back over your school career, you’ve really undergone a significant amount of change, both personally, and in your education. You’ve grown physically, socially, and emotionally to become the incredible young adults that you are today.”
“As a class, you have changed. You’ve worked out how to support each other, socialize, work as a team and accept differences. There have been so many changes that you have faced, that one of the greatest lessons for the future is to know that you can cope and adapt. Thank your families–they epitomize what our community is all about. Inspiration is all around you. Thank your teachers, whom have helped to enrich your lives. Thank everyone in our local community. This is a proud school and community. Fredericktown is truly a great place to grow up.”
“Tomorrow, you can look forward to the next set of changes. Life does not offer you a smooth path. Ahead of you will be tough times, regrets and failures, as well as success, rewards and happiness. Embrace all that comes your way.”
Gallagher reminded the Class of 2017 of their shared experience watching The Sandlot together, and touched upon the life lessons found within.
“Always be a ‘Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez,” said Gallagher. “Help someone out when they need it. Be a friend to someone who needs a friend. Never be afraid to try something new. Take time to live, love and learn. Most importantly, 30 years from now, it won’t matter what you wore, how you looked, or the shoes on your feet. What will matter is how you lived your life, and the lives you touched. Go forward, embrace your future, and make your mark on the world.”
Following Gallagher’s acceptance of the Class of 2017, and the administration and staff’s presentation of diplomas, Class President Cassidy Frazier lead her graduated classmates in the turning of the tassels, signifying their earning of diplomas, and the completion of their time at Fredericktown Schools.
Congratulations, Fredericktown High School Class of 2017, and thank you for your hard work, dedication, and commitment in everything you’ve done for yourselves, each other, and your community!