Class of 2011 seizes the day O’Conor named valedictorian

By on June 22, 2011

Photos by Stan Hall
Three hundred and fifty members of Warwick High School's Class of 2011 graduated during commencement ceremonies at Calvary Church on June 16.Photos by Stan Hall
Three hundred and fifty members of Warwick High School's Class of 2011 graduated during commencement ceremonies at Calvary Church on June 16.

Going indoors for graduation proved to be a good idea.

Three hundred and fifty Warwick High School seniors received their diplomas June 16 as rain pelted the roof at Calvary Church on Landis Valley Road. Highlights of the evening included Clarissa O’Conor being named valedictorian, a standing ovation for classmate Lance Hosler, chest bumps from class president Joshua Stoudt, and an unexpected on-stage back flip by graduate Brian Long.

"After tonight, things will never be the same. This is the last time all of us will be here together as the Warwick High School Class of 2011, the last time we see many of our classmates that we’ve seen every day since elementary school, the last time we are safely inside our comfort zones," said Casey Mitchell, one of four student orators who spoke on the theme "Carpe Diem" (seize the day). "After tonight, we are graduates… change will be an ever present factor in our new realities."

The other student speakers included valedictorian O’Conor, Samantha Weaver and Scott Singleton.

O’Conor talked about the obligation to be conscious instruments of change.

"In today’s world, we often forget the power that deliberate acts of kindness, compassion and respect can have," she said. "I see these ideals in various clubs launched at the high school, like Aevidum, a club started just this year to bring attention to the issue of depression and suicide. And then also in a club that I have had the privilege of being a part of, the Warwick Gay-Straight Alliance, a club some within our school and community might like to pretend does not exist. Quite to the contrary, in fact, we are growing and thriving. It’s in groups and activities like those of Aevidum, Unite and the Gay-Straight Alliance, and, of course, countless others, that one feels that the world is not a lost cause after all, that there still exists motivated and open-minded people willing to challenge the status quo. It is in activities like these where the inspiration to look outward, to look beyond one’s self begins."

The theme continued as Weaver discussed the subject of "Daring."

"Never let the fear of failing keep you from stepping outside your comfort zone," she said. "Daring is knowing the possibility of failure, and accepting it, because there is always something to be learned from making a mistake … Take that step, and with it seize every opportunity, every moment, every day you have."

Singleton spoke on the sub-theme of "Perseverance."

"While tomorrow seems like an inexorable phenomenon, the reality is that none of us know what tomorrow will bring, or even if it will come at all," he said. "Who would have thought on that fateful September Tuesday nearly 10 years ago, over 3,000 people would eat their last breakfasts, see the sunrise for the final time, and innocently say their final goodbyes to their loved ones?

"America woke up the next day in one of the lowest moments of its history, but as a result of the perseverance of a nation, we have not only gotten back on our feet, but have recovered remarkably.

"Instead of running from a tough stack of cards, approach it with poise, even if your past history is far from perfect. Albert Eintein failed fifth grade math, yet we all know of the revolution he started in particle physics that is currently in the process of redefining our view of the universe. Even the very best among the human species are prone to failure, yet it cannot be viewed as a discouragement, but rather as a means to develop our perseverance."

Warwick’s commencement program also included an introduction of honor graduates, 35 students representing the top 10 percent of the Class of 2011; a vocal rendition of "Thankful" by the senior members of the WHS Concert Choir; the long process of granting 350 diplomas; and a bittersweet farewell address by class president Stoudt.

"I look out at you today and challenge you to look ahead," Stoudt said. "High school for many of us was a great time, and for some it was not the best years. What it comes down to is seeing high school as a stepping-stone into each of our futures.

"Our class has the academic capacity, along with the drive, to better the world. So I challenge all of you to push yourselves to the edge. Take every opportunity you get, and always give 110 percent with every situation that arrives. Think of it this way, 30 years from now we will not look back and regret the decisions we made, but regret the decisions we did not make. Grasp your youth now and take advantage of it while you still have it." More GRADUATION, page A15

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