Class act

By on June 18, 2014

Gavin Schaffer’s heartfelt speech tops graduation highlights

Lobb named valedictorian

Holly Lobb Valedictorian

Holly Lobb

Warwick High School sent 339 graduates into an uncertain world last week, but the bond shared by many of these classmates is unmistakable.

Every commencement is full of memorable moments. For the 58th class of Warriors, highlights include inspirational speeches by the top students, Dr. Hershey’s subtle acknowledgment of recent headlines, the announcement of Holly Lobb as valedictorian, and Gavin Schaffer’s slam dunk emotional speech amid unforeseen technical difficulties.

Standing at the podium with no working microphone, the class president struggled to hold back tears until his mother belted out a show of support from somewhere in the auditorium.

“Thanks, Mom,” he said as the AV crew finally handed him the gift of amplification. The audience was captivated by the humorous trip down memory lane that followed.

“Do you remember playing kickball and football at recess? Going to Lititz Springs or Woodridge every day during the summer? Having a crush on that special someone, but never being able to talk to him or her? Do you remember when wearing Hollister meant you were cool, and whoever had IM (Instant Messaging) ruled the school?

“I had the opportunity to move to Lititz El for my 5th and 6th grade … I was nervous about going to a different elementary school because those who went to Lititz El were from the ‘inner city’ of Lititz. And before we knew it, it was Track and Field Day, the Olympics of elementary school…”

Then there was middle school, the old building and awkward dances. And on to high school as a fresh crop of freshmen, where he met the influential Mr. Roak.

“I’ll never forget his little one-liners that he’d repeat everyday, like, ‘I may have been born at night, but not last night.’

And before they all knew it, they were seniors.

“The time had come. This was our year to reign,” he said. “Some of our fondest moments were dressing up like elves and Santa Claus for the Hempfield basketball game. Our field hockey team advanced all the way to State Quarterfinals. Our football team beat Ephrata for the eighth year in a row. Baseball brought home the Section 1 title, our band earned third at States, our lacrosse team had the best hair around…”

Other unforgettable moments included bonfires, going to Freeze and Frizz on half-days, doing the roller coaster at halftime, chowing down on McChickens after sporting events, raising $30,000 at Mini-THON, “Grease” the musical, rocking out to “Don’t Stop Believin’” at Prom, and sprinting to lunch every third Thursday for Boli.

“Even if you’re one of those kids who has been counting down the days to graduation, I can tell you that you will miss Warwick and all of the friendships and memories that have been created here.”

He closed his speech with thank-yous and received a well-deserved ovation from the packed room of family and friends.

Gavin Schaffer class president

Gavin Schaffer
class president

Earlier in the evening, the top four students left their mark on commencement with themed addresses, and it was announced for the first time that Holly Lobb was 2014’s valedictorian. She spoke candidly of her struggle with an eating disorder which was diagnosed in 7th grade.

“I knew I wasn’t eating much and I new I was a bit obsessive about my nutrition and body image, but it never crossed my mind that it was … the big ‘A’ word, which I still cannot bring myself to say,” said Lobb. “As months and years passed, I had my ups and downs, highs and lows; I withered away and came back. I threw away important relationships and constantly questioned, ‘why me?’ As terrible as those four years of my life were, I learned so much from that experience, and those years greatly impacted who I am today.”

Lobb was able to bounce back from that struggle and finish high school as the top academic student in the class.

“I am not comfortable with myself, and I feel that knowing one’s self is among the most important things in life,” she said. “You can’t go through life constantly questioning your identity. Know who you are, know who you want to be and strive to make the two the same.”

Emily Myers was then announced as class salutatorian. She talked about standardized tests and reality.

“Life’s tests won’t come on a familiar green Scantron card,” she said. “And the questions probably won’t be clean-cut multiple choice or true and false. Life is open-ended, and we’ll write our answers in pen. But if high school has prepared us for anything, it’s to roll with the punches, appreciate the good times and laugh through the bad times.”

Student speeches were rounded out by Kelly Striker and Amy Wood.

Striker spoke on “Going to Goodwill” in light of it being a fashion destination for her fellow students.

“In 1902, Edgar J. Helms founded the organization Goodwill to promote the well-being of others. If we follow in his footsteps, our own goodwill can ignite change that will also outlast a century,” she said. “When you spread genuine care to others, it proliferates. If we learn to care for ourselves, our capacity to care for others will flourish … it is goodwill that holds the universe together, with every person desiring to share and receive kindness.”

Wood’s speech was titled “When Failure Fails to Fail You.”

“I am a passionate believer that the quality of results is a product of the caliber of effort that is employed to create those results,” she said. “Unfortunately, an excellent effort does not always yield and equal standard of results.

“An integral element in self-motivation, however, is the drive to persistently put forth the maximum effort no matter the quality of results. Half-hearted effort almost never yields quite the same magnitude of success as wholehearted effort does, and the best type of success is that which is earned through exceptional hard work.”

With much made of recent plagiarism issues at another local graduation ceremony, district Superintendent Dr. April Hershey made light of the matter, stating that all her comments were her own, except where otherwise duly noted. She spoke of her time at Oxford University and quoted J.R.R. Tolkien in challenging the graduates to endeavor to make each new chapter of life better than the one before it.

Thursday’s ceremony at Calvary Church also marked the first year of relatively new leadership at the high school. Principal Ryan Axe and assistant principal Steven Szobocsan (who is also the husband of one of the school’s other three assistant principals, Kristy Szobocsan) were making their WHS commencement debuts. It also marked the end of assistant principal Sydnor W. Harrison’s second year.

Axe opened the evening with brief remarks and recognized his predecessor, Dave Davies. And he reminded students that from the very first time they were on stage, even at a very young age their parents were there to support them.

“They will always be here, cheering you on for the rest of your life,” he said.

The 34 Honor Graduates represent the top 10 percent of the class. They are as follows:

Gabrielle Renee Bomberger; Victoria F. Byler; Samson Cassel Nucci; Bridget Joy Esbenshade; Lauren N. Eyer; Nadine E. French; Justin Daniel Gabert; Jennifer R. George; Aiden G. Helm; Thomas M. Herr; Amy E. Kochel, Alyssa Scarlett Kray; Joshua R. Larson; Holly A. Lobb; Zachary A. Mansfield; Jessica L. Mauro; Maria Jeana Mazenko; Larissa F. Miller; Mary E. Miller; James P. Mitchell; Justin S. Mitchell; Katherine M. Mobley; Rachel E. Mueller; Emily Myers; Avery T. Neff; Mark D. Newhard; Brianna L. Olivieri; Samantha R. Rishell; Nikole M. Rottkamp; Kelly A. Striker; Ryan K. Williams; Taylor B. Winpenny; Amy T. Wood; and Lea C. Zikmund.

School Board President Dr. Timothy Quinn, who helped hand out diplomas to the 337 students who attended, encouraged the graduates as they embarked on the next phase of their lives.

“As this chapter of your life closes, another begins,” he said. “This is your book. You have prepared for the next chapter. I am excited to see what your next chapter brings.”

Gary P. Klinger is a freelance writer and reporter for the Record Express. He welcomes your questions and feedback via email at or via Twitter @gpklinger.


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