WHS Class of 2016 embarks on the next phase of life’s journey

By on June 15, 2016
Destiny Butler snaps a selfie as the rest of the Class of 2016 celebrates around her.

Destiny Butler snaps a selfie as the rest of the Class of 2016 celebrates around her.

Three hundred and fifty-eight Warwick High School graduates may now be heading in different directions, but they’re forever unified by the diplomas they received Monday night.

There were smiles and proud parents and lots of pictures to mark the milestone known as commencement, held once again at Calvary Church in nearby Manheim Township. It was an evening for sharing memories and instilling encouragement among a close-knit class of young adults.

The senior members of the concert choir sang “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway show “Rent,” with words about measuring life in daylights and sunsets, in midnights, and cups of coffee, in laughter and in strife. Music director Debra Kline Smith wasn’t there for the first time in many years, while Warwick School District superintendent April Hershey used her background in music to fill in as director.

“Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure a year in the life?” they sang, asking “How about love? How about love?”

Valedictorian and speaker Kiernan McNelis talked about the little moments in life, when some of the smallest moments can be the biggest. She told the “grown children” of the Class of 2016 that now they were to become the “infants of the adult world” as they set out to conquer their new worlds.

Looking back at her time as a dance teacher for little children, McNelis told of a time when she and her young charges were waiting backstage for the curtain to part. One girl was afraid, and McNelis reassured her.

“As long as you smile, there is nothing to worry about,” said McNelis to the tiny dancers and to her classmates. Then she took a quote from Buzz Lightyear of Disney’s “Toy Story,” encouraging them go “To infinity and beyond!”

Salutatorian Abigael Weit reminded the graduates that they were among the first generation to grow up with technology at a very young age. They had known the power of social media from their elementary school years. They were a part of a new, rising society that had opportunities, but also had the distractions of Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.

She reminded them to stay focused and avoid the temptations. Calling on the words of the late boxer Mohammad Ali, she told her class, “If you can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it.”

Speaker Elisabeth Bach was upbeat with her push for her classmates to be curious and bold. She asked them to foster their innate curiosity and learn to distinguish the truth in a world of misinformation. Then she reminded them all that they were “amazing people.”

Lauren Snader, one of the four commencement speakers, said that she would be confident doing a calculus problem or taking a 25-yard free kick on a soccer field, but giving a speech in front her entire class and their families, not so much. She talked about inadequacy, fears, frustration and failure. She reminded them that they will make mistakes. She also reminded them that perfection is unrealistic.

“Our failures are meant to be used as learning experiences,” she said. “Life is supposed to be difficult, and we have to work hard and stay determined in order to fulfill our goals.”

Thirty-three honor graduates (top 10 percent of the class) were presented, along with 69 National Honor Society members and two foreign exchange students, Leyre Bervil from Spain and Sofia Bernardo from Italy.

Hershey took care to remind the Class of 2016 that they were students with minds and hearts that were engaged together. She told them how proud she was of them for the wonderful support they had shown for a student who performed at baccalaureate on Friday evening.

As the new graduates made their way into an uncertain world, class President Tyler Bogda buoyed their spirits with a great send-off, in the words of William Jennings Bryan, “Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice.”

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com.

Be sure to also read Memorable Moments from the Commencement Speeches


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