Good fortune on horizon Rainbow replaces black clouds for 2012 EHS commencement
By: ANDY FASNACHT Review Editor firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
When a rainbow replaced an ominous black cloud literally hanging right over the 2012 commencement exercises for Ephrata High School, it would be easy for the 328 seniors to believe that even more good fortune awaits them than ever imagined.
Forced to put in a "Plan C," as a light rain began falling at War Memorial Field Friday night just as the 117th ceremony began, superintendent Dr. Gerald Rosati seemed to use the power of positive thinking to keep the storms at bay.
"It’s not rain," he said with a smile.
Stating that since the "Plan B" of going to the spacious middle school gymnasium across the highway was no longer feasible, Dr. Rosati said that should the downpours arrive, the event would be taken to the high school auditorium, where the crowd would unfortunately be limited to immediate family members only.
Fortunately for all, not only did the black clouds move through with a minimum of sprinkles–but a few minutes later the sun burst through over the War Memorial Cemetery, and moments later, a rainbow caught formed above the football scoreboard and caught the attention of nearly all in attendance.
"If you saw the rainbow, this truly is a picture-perfect moment," Principal Joane Eby said.
If there already wasn’t enough promise and hope in the air, there was now even more before the first student speaker strode to the podium. Though each had their poignant moments and times of strong crowd reaction, it was the first one after class president Mariah Hatt gave the opening address, which quickly indicated this would not be a typical set of graduation speeches.
Dagmawi Baykeda used a lighthearted approach to open before stating how he approached the theme used by all the orators, "With These Four Years, We Build A Lifetime."
"When I started to write this speech, I read some articles from the Internet about speeches and graduations," Baykeda said. "After long hours of fighting difficult vocabulary and a headache, I ended up on Facebook updating my status."
The audience roared.
"Next I consulted YouTube to view graduation speeches, but found myself watching new movie trailers and funny cat videos. When I finally realized that Tosh.O was not going to help me write my speech, I decided to tell you my experience and how it helped me become who I am today."
Baykeda’s story is an amazing one, as was his delivery to his classmates and the thousands packing the stands and perimeter of the War Memorial football field.
He spoke about growing up in Ethiopia and how he looked up to those in high school and how "cool" they looked.
"Coming into high school at Ephrata as a freshman, I wasn’t really sure who I was going to be or even who I wanted to be. I was just a little freshman with a big backpack trying to figure out proper English. "
Not only was Baykeda’s English spot on, he delivered his address with a veteran toastmaster’s delivery, while keeping his focus squarely on his audience at all times.
"I had scattered dreams, but it never seemed they could be reality," he said.
He then spoke of how the priorities of he and his classmates started to come into focus.
"It is amazing how much of a power time has in shaping all of us."
Baykeda, who also thanked his family for helping him reach his fullest potential, addressed "the four years."
"Through our four years here we learned that high school is much more than wearing jerseys, listening to our favorite songs, hanging out with friends and having hall way chitchats," he said. "It is definitely much more than freshman confusion and trying to fit in. These four years have been about discovering ourselves; about finding who we are and who we are about to become."
The public got a taste of the type of student valedictorian Kevin Trinh was during the senior awards assembly on May 23 but commencement was the first opportunity for them to hear from the class of 2012′s top student. When they did, they heard him spend quite a bit of time early on thanking the parents, friends and teachers who went above and beyond to support he and his classmates.
"Teachers, we thank you for the times when we stayed after school for lengthy periods of time to ask for your help and you happily offered it to us," Trinh said. "We thank you for being patient with us whenever we were struggling and kept asking endless strings of questions. We thank you for your kind and dedicated personalities, because without them, we would not have been able to make it this far."
Before quoting Churchill, he gave strong praise to his classmates, talking about the potential he sees in all of them.
"There is not a doubt in my mind that everyone here has the ability to achieve something great," he said. "Winston Churchill once said, ‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’"
Trinh then closed with another strong message and later used the words of one of the most talked-about businessmen of this generation.
"In the future, as we are designing, creating, and marketing the next generation, it is important to remember where we have come from, but do not get stuck where you are for too long," he said. "Let us not settle for what we can do today but let us live for what we can do to improve today’s tomorrow.
"I close this speech with a quote from former Apple CEO Steve Jobs: ‘I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.’"
Laura Hepp, known for her talents on the stages of Ephrata High School and the Ephrata Playhouse used the analogy of how high school and life is like a musical production.
"To put it in other words, we have all built the stage on which we will perform the rest of our lives," she said. "It is a solid and level stage upon which we are able to take a firm stance and await the rise of the curtain.
" Of course, we did not build our stages on our own," she said. "We have been blessed with many architects and carpenters who have carefully crafted our foundations."
She talked of course about parents and guardians getting it all started but then also the "light" provided by the teachers, mentors and coaches. She also referred to friends and peers as "the pit orchestra."
"When they all play together, a beautiful sound is created that allows every one of us to keep performing, no matter what disasters may ensue," Hepp said. "Class of 2012, look around you and see the best friend you have had since the third grade, the guy who sat in front of you in World Geography and always made you laugh, and the girl who smiled at you in the hallway every day last semester. We have all had an impact on one another. We have seen each other’s highs and lows and have watched each other grow. We are who we are because of our influence upon one another. Our bond is eternal for that reason alone. We are all a part of each other’s pit orchestra. Together, we opened the door to Ephrata High School and together we shall close it."
As players in this production, Hepp reminded her classmates that roles can change.
"We may become doctors or lawyers, accountants or cosmetologists," she said. "Many will become husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. Right now, we are sons and daughters. We are former graduates of Ephrata High School. We are undefined, and we have the rest of our lives to identify ourselves and adapt the titles that we seek. As long as we have confidence, nothing can stand in our way. The spotlight is ready, so we must be, too!"
Speaker Rachel Stauffer also engaged the audience immediately with humor and then quickly laid out much of what filled their time in high school, from what was fun (texting and posting photos to Facebook), to perhaps what was maybe a bit silly (celebrity tweets?), to what was devastating (the loss of a beloved teacher and mentor in Mrs. Good) and what it all meant here at the end.
"The truth is, the education we have received these last four years at Ephrata High School goes far beyond what we’ve read in books or what our test scores show," she Stauffer said. "The relationships we’ve developed and the value system we have been taught are the foundations on which we build a lifetime."
She spoke of disappointments, educationally and socially, but also the elation of a getting a good report card, or watching classmates succeed in sports or on a stage or as a school raising a record-breaking amount of money for pediatric cancer research. In fact, when Stauffer talked about the tears of joy that were shed when it was announced that EHS raised a whopping $26,662.17 for pediatric cancer research at mini-THON a few months back — the crowd Friday night also immediately showed appreciation for that accomplishment.
"We’ve admired each other’s talents and we’ve shared in each other’s accomplishments. However, the emotion we are feeling the most as we are sitting here tonight is excitement. The excitement in knowing we completed out last standardized test, we heard the final bell ring, and we know that in less than a few hours we will walk away with our diploma in hand," Stauffer said. "Most importantly, there is the excitement of anticipating what the next chapter of life holds for each of us and knowing that in 4 years, we have built a lifetime."
David Marchino was the last of the speakers and he highlighted his transition from Philadelphia to Ephrata.
One of the top students in the class, Marchino said the greatest thing Ephrata gave him was his sense of self –and hopefully the OK of a superhero.
"Growing up in Philadelphia, it was easy for me to be buried by the cosmopolitan hustle of the community: there was hardly any time at all to consider my own feelings, hardly any time to really reflect," he said. "Before coming here, I used to say that I do not really know how I want to live my life; I only hope that Spider-Man approves of what I am doing. Today, standing before all of you, I say that I still hope Spidey is giving me the thumbs up but, also, that I now know who I am."
Marchino mixed humor and heartfelt emotion explaining how this town and school have grown on him.
"During my time in Ephrata, I began to explore the community through clubs, services, and contests, and, in time, I learned that, try as you may, it is impossible to attempt to leave an imprint on something without it leaving a twin imprint on you," he said. "As much as I worked my way into the community, the community began to work itself into me, and, while I still have no idea what a Whoopie Pie is, this little sliver of Lancaster County has become a part of who I am. It was here, after all, that I met some of the kindest and most compassionate people in my life."
Addressing the student body, he thanked them and talked about why the next phase of transition may be difficult.
"Each of you has touched each other in some way or another, and, whether you know it or not, you will carry that with you far into the future," Marchino said. "It is because of this that so many of us are now reluctant to leave. After everything we have been through here, it’s really just starting to feel like home, like we really are comfortable here, like we really are comfortable with each other."
He finished with more strong praise of his new home in Ephrata.
"Looking back on the past, it all seems so very surreal," Marchino said. "I lived 14 years of my life in Philadelphia, but I grew up in Ephrata.
"With these four years now gone, I have learned to live as a friend, as an individual, as a gadabout, as a scholar, and, with the next coming years, I will learn to live as an Ephrata alum. Thank you, everyone, for being who you are because, had you not, I could never have become me. "
Class president Mariah Hatt was the first senior to address the huge audience.
She praised her classmates for all they overcome and accomplished and asked the parents and guardians of the class of 2012 to stand and be recognized for their years of generous love, guidance, and support.
" For without you, many of us would not be sitting here today," Hatt said.
"I find it a privilege to be here speaking in front of all of you. Not only have we spent the last four years together, but our entire lives. Whether the experiences and memories we’ve had together were good or bad, they still happened," she said. "We can use what we have learned here at Ephrata and what we learned over our entire lives to influence what we should and shouldn’t do in our futures. We can use whatever mistakes we have made to define who we want to be. Who we were in high school isn’t who we have to be for the rest of our lives; who we were in high school can teach us about who we want to be for the rest of our lives.
"I would like to wish all of you the very best after high school, whether going to college, entering the military, beginning a career, or just taking some time off to find yourself; I hope that life will bring you the best," Hatt concluded. "As we grow up, don’t forget to learn, to love and to laugh. Remember the memories we have had together, and I wish the very best for each and every one of you." More EHS GRADUATION, page A5