Cocalico Graduation Coverage – 2019

By on June 5, 2019

‘Endings are really new beginnings’

Cocalico Eagles Class of 2019 are ready to ‘leave the nest’

Sharing memories, listening to testimonials, applauding and cheering and singing the Alma Mater en masse were all a part of Cocalico High School’s commencement ceremony, held Monday, June 3, in Calvary Church along Landis Valley Road, but the most thrilling moment had to be the “it’s-finally-over” realization when the blue and white mortar boards filled the high spots of the sanctuary in the traditional ‘cap toss.’

It was an evening full of excitement for the 255 Eagle graduates, their friends and families, and as each senior was called to the stage, a chorus of cheers accompanied them on their last steps as a student before gaining graduate status — and freedom.

This year’s valedictorian was Taylor Hornberger and the salutatorian for 2019 was Grant Mellinger.

Salutatorian Grant Mellinger

Valedictorian Taylor Hornberger

“This night is the crowning moment of all your hard work,” Cocalico Principal Christopher R. Irvine told the seniors.

“With all the joys and the challenges ahead of you and faced with questions of the future, remember the best is yet to come,” Irvine said. “This ceremony is a step that will take you into the future…be happy and be humble. You’re an amazing group and I’m so proud to be your principal.”

Irvine told the seniors that they have always been special because they have been compassionate young people.

Cocalico senior Rachel Gehr smells a rose during graduation at Calvary Church in Lancaster Monday night.

The principal asked those who will be going into the country’s Armed Services to stand and receive applause.

“Your impact will be far-reaching, and you are prepared to face the challenges that come, because you’ll always be an Eagle,” Irvine said. “Class of 2019, we’ll miss you…it is now time to leave the nest.”

Allen L. Dissinger, president of the Cocalico School Board of Directors, encouraged the graduates to “be all they can be,” and to volunteer their time to help others.

Superintendent Dr. Ella Musser also encouraged a life of service.

“What we want for you is for you to achieve your potential,” Musser said. “By helping others, by increasing the well-being of others, you bring joy and fulfillment to yourselves.

“Our mission is to help you every step of the way and now we can’t wait to see what you will accomplish,” Musser said.

Seven senior speakers addressed their classmates, including Class President Rowan Lapi, who told the group about the obstacles she had to surmount during her senior year, including surgery and a demanding course load.

Lapi tried to act as though everything was okay when it seemed more like everything was falling apart, she said.

It was the kindness of two teachers who finally helped her to cope.

“I had been feeling sorry for myself, but that didn’t do anything for me,” Lapi said. “I needed to figure out a way to change my attitude to better attack all the problems I was facing…it’s always okay and sometimes necessary to reach out for help.”

Taylor Hornberger encouraged her classmates to step out of their comfort zone, to look at issues from a different perspective.

Hornberger will be attending Florida State University in the FSU Honors program.

“I figured out that this is the right choice for me because of all the changes I made senior year,” Hornberger said. “I truly opened my mind up, got to know new people…with different personalities and opinions….and I was able to start figuring out where I stood on a lot of matters.

“I learned that I need to appreciate the environment more, that there’s no Planet B, and when you can, save a turtle and skip a straw,” Hornberger said.

Max McCormack added wisdom from a Jedi Master to his presentation.

“’Each choice, the branch of a tree is’….even though this is from a sci-fi movie, Yoda delivers a clear message; we grow from our decisions,” McCormack said. “We need to establish directions for our lives.”

Grant Mellinger talked about the attributes of the Eagle, Cocalico’s mascot.

“The eagle reflects strength, and to achieve any goal, each person needs to be strong, mentally and morally,” Mellinger said. “The eagle also reflects bravery, and that means taking risks and not backing down from challenges or obstacles.”

Family and friends were also excited about the commencement ceremony, applauding and cheering for the graduates of the Class of 2019 at Calvary Church June 3.

Daniel Harrington told his fellow students to block out negative opinions that may be swirling around them and continue to move forward on the path to success.

“If you remain focused and committed to your goals and believe in your abilities, you can overcome whatever obstacles lay in your path,” Harrington said.

Senior Natalee Boronow will be enlisting in the United States Army, a decision she arrived at by way of a circuitous path. She first thought about becoming a missionary, then considered college, but neither seemed right for her, she said.

Boronow spoke about change, and the difficult changes she has had to deal with, from a young age.

“Life isn’t easy for all of us,” Boronow said. “People die, families separate…the people we’re supposed to turn to and depend on, they disappear…and it’s crippling.

“But all the changes that destroyed me also rebuilt me into someone I like a whole lot more than the girl I used to be.”

Endings are really new beginnings, Boronow said, even if that is a bit cliche.

“Embrace change…it’s easier said than done, but have faith that those things will change you for the better, and trust that they will eventually turn into a blessing,” Boronow said.

Zoe Smith said Cocalico has been her world for the past four years.

“Now my world is our world,” Smith said. “As we march into the future, I hope that all of you found something in the past four years — a book, a teacher, a class — that made you believe in yourself a little bit more,” Smith said.

Vincent and Amy Leedy, of Denver, watched their daughter, Julia, march down the aisle and up onto the stage at Calvary Church Monday night, and cheered as she reached out to get her diploma.

Julia is their first child, and the first grandchild in the family, to become a high school graduate.

“We’re extremely proud of her,” said mom Amy. “She’s had a lot of accomplishments in high school, she’s worked hard, and she’s been accepted into Brooklyn College.”

Julia Leedy will be studying anthropology and political science at her chosen school.

Wayne and Robin Miller, of Stevens, were both proud of their graduate, son Ryan Miller, but showed their pride in different ways.

“I’m feeling emotional, very emotional,” said Robin Miller. “It’s our last child graduating and we’re both very proud.”

“This is one box checked, and the next one is college,” said dad Wayne Miller.

Ryan will be going to Penn State, Berks, with a possible major in global studies.

Cocalico class president Rowan Lapi speaks to her classmates.


Cocalico senior Daniel Harrington speaks.


Cocalico senior Natalee Boronow addresses the crowd.


Maxwell McCormack speaks.


Cocalico senior Zoe Smith speaks to her fellow graduates.

Minutes-old graduate Logan Hull admired a flower bouquet given to her by her parents.

“I’m excited,” Hull said. “I loved high school, but I’m ready to move on to the next phase of my life.”

A daughter of Kelly and Chris Hull, of Reinholds, Logan will be majoring in criminology at Penn State, Harrisburg, with minors in anthropology and sociology.

Logan’s older brother, Jeremy, a 2012 graduate of Cocalico, came out to see his little sister get her diploma. Jeremy recently graduated from Penn State with a degree in psychology.

Abigail Lockhart receives her diploma from Cocalico school board member Allen Dissinger at Calvary Church.

Graduate Brant Meckley echoed other seniors’ perspectives when he said it was time to move on.

“I’m relieved,” Meckley said. “Tonight was nice, I mean, it was four years all leading to a few hours, and then it’s done. But I won’t miss high school.”

A son of Briana and Brett Meckley, Brant was in good company, surrounded by a family that were all Cocalico High graduates, including his godparents, who graduated in 1978, and his grandparents, Randy and Vicky Meckley, who graduated from Cocalico in 1967.

Brant won’t be having much of a summer vacation, as he begins school at Reading Area Community College on June 10, where he’ll be majoring in electro-mechanical engineering.

Brant will be going to school full-time and working full-time, his mother said.

“He’ll be so busy, that he’ll just need a place to eat and sleep, so I’m hoping to keep him under our roof for awhile,” Briana Meckley said.

“I’m proud that he went the CTC route; going to the career and technology center in Mt. Joy, and then going to community college,” said dad Brett. “He’s following in my footsteps.”

Tyler Eberly, of Denver, said he’s ready to take the next step, too.

“This was pretty exciting,” Tyler said. “I’ve waited a long time for this and it’s good to see it’s finally ending. Some parts I’ll miss, but I’m mostly glad it’s over.”

Cocalico graduates get together for a photo after the commencement ceremony June 3.

Mom Jodie Eberly had mixed emotions.

“It’s very bittersweet,” Jodie said. “I’m sad, but I’m also very proud of him and very excited to see where he goes from here.”

Tyler will be attending the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, majoring in biology and pre-veterinary courses.

Abby Wenger, a daughter of Dean and Sharon Wenger of Denver, was happy and calm and collected about her graduation, until a few teachers came to say good-bye.

It was then that the enormity of the day became too hard to take and tears began to flow.

“We’re feeling good about this evening,” said dad Dean Wenger. “This is our youngest to graduate.”

Abby will be attending the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport to become a dental hygienist.

“I feel happy and I feel proud,” said mom Sharon Wenger. “She’s the last one of our children to graduate; all four went to Cocalico High School and we’re very happy with Cocalico.”

Marylouise Sholly is a freelance feature writer for The Ephrata Review. She welcomes your comments and questions at

Lexi Gonzalez receives her diploma from school board member Allen Dissinger at Calvary Church on June 3. Gonzalez was an intern at The Ephrata Review this year.  We’ll miss you, Lexi! 


Cocalico class president Rowan Lapi (left) and Grant Mellinger walk to the stage at Calvary Church.


Cocalico graduates listen to the names of their classmates being called to receive their diplomas.

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