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360 degrees WHS class of ’13 challenged to serve
DONNA WALKER Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Today’s high school graduates were in first grade when 9/11 happened, and while they probably don’t remember that day, the tragedy shaped their idea of a hero’s service.
Warwick High School’s top graduate and valedictorian Daniel O’Conor reminded students of that "clear September morning" during his speech at the WHS commencement June 12 and said, "These events have reminded us what it means to be a hero and to serve in our highest capacity."
Service was the gist of O’Conor’s speech and a mark of honor for the 360 students. Principal Troy Price said before the ceremony that the class of 2013 gave more hours of community service than anybody will ever realize.
"They’ve served the community well. They will leave here with a great education, and I think they’re going to do great things, "Price said. "Some of them someday may change the world. That’s how I feel about these students."
O’Conor challenged his fellow graduates to a life of service.
"No matter where we end up, we will be a part of society and a part of a community," he said. "Every decision we make is interconnected with the lives of others."
Colby Weit also spoke at graduation as one of the top four students in the class. Before the ceremony, he talked about how teachers serve students.
"The best thing about Warwick is the incredible relationships we formed with students and teachers along the way," Weit said. "We have a great school that offers incredible things to students … The teachers do a fantastic job preparing us for what we’re going to encounter after school, as well as giving us insights on how to be successful after high school."
Setbacks will happen, said Greta Weidemoyer during her speech. Getting up after a knockdown is the stuff of heroes – those like Rocky Balboa, whom Weidemoyer mentioned.
"It’s okay for life to bring us to our knees," Weidemoyer said. "There is no shame in being knocked down … The shame only exists if we don’t get back up and keep moving forward."
Her classmate and salutatorian Austin Minnich described his hero and brother, Tyler, whose setback happened at birth.
"He weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces and was about 11 inches long," Minnich said. "He spent his first 128 days in the hospital and emerged with vision problems, but in spite of his challenges, he made distinguished honor roll every single marking period."
Tyler is also a 2013 graduate.
Of course, students will remember their high school friends and will miss them. Madi Derr will also miss her homeroom teacher.
"I had my mom as a homeroom teacher for four years. She’ll be giving me my diploma tonight and that’ll be cool," she said.
When the moment came, Amy Derr and her daughter hugged and the audience collectively sighed.
Derr’s boyfriend Steve Woolley joined the Army, mostly because of his relationship with a veteran who influenced his life. Joining the Navy will be Charlie Fatjo, whose grandfather Jim Warren said Fatjo’s choice was influenced by a relative who is a naval nuclear engineer.
Robert Stoudt, senior class president, gave the evening’s farewell address. As he recounted stories of their high school years, his classmates cheered with the same spirit that earned them an award for best student section in the league.
Stoudt also gave credit to his family as strong supporters. For him and many Warwick students, their families, friends, teachers, mentors and role models are the "larger people" described by O’Conor in his speech.
"In physics class, Mr. Lind will tell you how infinitely large the universe is and how infinitely small we are in comparison, but when we choose to serve we become infinitely larger people," O’Conor said. "I challenge you all to a life of service. Take your diploma, a symbol of the great opportunity of the education that was offered to us, and use it as a tool of boundless service."
O’Conor is the son of Tom and Nancy O’Conor. He will attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. Weit, the son of Scott and Beverly Weit, will go to Virginia Tech. Weidemoyer is the daughter of James and Lisa Weidemoyer. She will attend Lebanon Valley College to study physical therapy. The Minnichs are the sons of Gary R. and Melanie Minnich. Austin will attend Lebanon Valley College. Tyler will attend the University of Mount Union in Ohio. Madi Derr, the daughter of Randy and Amy Derr, will attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Woolley is the son of Daniel and Sherry Woolley. Fatjo is the son of Rachel Lindemuth. Stoudt, the son of David Stoudt and Laura Taylor, will attend Susquehanna University. All live in Lititz.
More GRADUATION, page A5