Emotional night for WHS class of ‘15

By on June 10, 2015

Class heads class as valedictorian

Madeyln Class is the head of her class. She was named Warwick's 2015 valedictorian Tuesday night. (photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Madeyln Class is the head of her class. She was named Warwick’s 2015 valedictorian Tuesday night. (photo by Preston Whitcraft)

“Childhood ends at midnight,” announced J.J. Vulopas.

For the president of Warwick High School’s class of 2015, the hours were counting down for him and his fellow graduates at Tuesday evening’s commencement at Calvary Church.

Some 360 students passed from childhood to young adulthood as Vulopas gave a rousing send-off to his classmates, admitting that he had a big crush on cartoon character Dora the Explorer when he was a kid. He even discovered that you can’t always count on villains like the sneaky orange fox Swiper to not steal things by saying, “Swiper, no swiping” three times.

“We are loud. We are proud. We are resilient. We are confident,” said Vulopas. “We are football players and musicians and painters and skaters and runners and jumpers and actors and bakers and more.”

He offered words of encouragement with, “We live. We love. We care. We accept. We are the stewards of the future.” Even for those who happen to be allergic to M&Ms. Like Vulopas.

Madelyn Class lived up to her name as top in the class of 2015, when she was named valedictorian. She talked about “The People Who Surround Us,” and recounted that she had been dreaming of being a graduation speaker since she was in fifth grade.

“I was sitting at my cousin’s Warwick graduation, and being in awe of the magnitude of the night,” recalled Class, “I want to be one of those speakers some day.”

And she was.

Front and center during the class president's closing remarks are (left to right) Christopher Borg, Matthew Blevins, and Kobi Biemesderfer. (Preston Whitcraft photo)

Front and center during the class president’s closing remarks are (left to right) Christopher Borg, Matthew Blevins, and Kobi Biemesderfer. (Preston Whitcraft photo)

Reaching that goal came at a price for Class, as the overachiever studied and worked into the middle of the night to excel academically. Her perfectionism was taken too far, she recounted, when she fought a three-year battle with an eating disorder.

She reminded classmates that being surrounded by caring, supportive and influential people taught her the lessons of love, compassion and determination.

“Each and every one of us graduating has proven how special we are in so many different ways by the people influencing our lives,” said Class.

In contrast, Warwick’s salutatorian Michael Perezous urged his fellow graduates to not live too much through others. The son of a doctor, he is often expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. What will he be in the next 10 years? Maybe he will be a doctor. Maybe not.

“While we are in the peak of our lives, we have people telling us what to do, how to do it and when it needs to be done,” he said. “But if we are always following orders, we can never experience the world for ourselves.”

Speaker Drew Carson shared his heartfelt experiences as the younger brother of a sister with Down Syndrome. His sister Vanessa has shown him the value of living in a world of magic and innocence.

“I cannot express how imperative it is that each of us in this room rises up to our full potential and mitigates the world’s challenges for those who were not dealt the same cards,” said Carson.

Austin Maguire (left) and R.J. Samuels. (Preston Whitcraft photo)

Austin Maguire (left) and R.J. Samuels. (Preston Whitcraft photo)

Life is not about a big paycheck.

“Do not look for a career that presents the most opportunity for your own advancement. Build your own path according to what you are passionate about and where you feel you can touch the most lives,” he said.

Speaker Sharon Christner wanted her classmates to know that they were “pearls of great price,” and that they were more than the sum of their achievements.

“We need to celebrate each other,” she said. “For we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Warwick School District superintendent April Hershey gave her send-off to the tune of the Disney song “It’s a Small World After All.” Her nephew had cautioned her to not actually sing it.

“It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears. It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears,” she said, citing the Robert Sherman and Richard Sherman song. “There is just one moon and one golden sun, and a smile means friendship to everyone. Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”

Class President J.J. Vulopas (Preston Whitcraft photo)

Class President J.J. Vulopas (Preston Whitcraft photo)

Then Hershey had just nine more words for the class of 2015. “Call your mother” and “Warwick is very proud of you.”

The honor graduates, representing the top 10 percent of the graduating class were commended for their efforts. They included Meg Barr, Linn Bjanes, Matthew Blevins, Abigail Bomberger, Benjamin Bosis, Logan Brosemer, Rachel Boyer, Kallie Cardenas, Drew Carson, Andres Cedeno, Sharon Christner, Madelyn Class, Justin Cramer, Charles Colebert, Danielle de Perrot, Emma Doman, Brogan Galbreath, Luke Gibson, Amanda Graber, Gia Gruett, Kelley Hershey, Erik Homberger, David Krak, Hunter Kready, Jack Lance, Laurel Schappell, Tatiana Stauffer, Cassandra Stief, Taylor Sweeney, Michael Perezous, Jacquelyn Pixley, Jamison Vulopas, Jesse Whiteman, Breahna Wiczkowski, Emily Wyand, Jared Yerger, and Grant Zimmerman.

Members of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, National Business Honor Society, CTC Honor Society, National French Honor Society, National German Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society and Tri M Music Honor Society were all honored, as they stood.

Four foreign exchange students accepted gifts from their host school after a year of study at Warwick. They included Viviane Belen Rafola Bragado of Chile, Eloise Isabella Goffart of Belgium, Laura Katariina Marttila of Finland, and Svea Peters of Germany.

As Vulopas counted them down with, “on your mark, get set, go!” caps flew into the air and kids became brand new grownups overnight.

Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter who covers local events for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com. 

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