Purple pride reigns

By on June 13, 2018

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But weather holds for a near-perfect night at War Memorial as Ephrata says good-bye to 298 seniors

Clear skies held throughout the evening for the 123rd commencement of the 298 seniors of Ephrata Area School District at the War Memorial Stadium last Wednesday evening.

The bleachers at the stadium were packed with family, friends, and well-wishers, many of whom carried bouquets of flowers or bunches of balloons to hand to their grad.

In a paper bag that held a dozen red roses, the family of senior Madalyn Witwer brought something else; a portrait of Madalyn’s mother, who died in April.

“She is here with us,” said Madalyn’s maternal grandmother, Claudia Eckman, speaking of Madalyn’s mom. “She struggled and was sick for the past 10 years, so the kids have been through a lot.”

Grandfather Eugene Eckman credited the school with helping his granddaughter through a dark time.

“She stayed sweet through it all,” Claudia said.

Class motto

The motto for this year’s senior class was “Every ending is the beginning of something new,” a theme echoed by district Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop in his address to the graduates.

“You have a feeling of hope and optimism now, so remember that feeling of pride and accomplishment as you prepare for your future,” Troop said.

Troop espoused adaptability in the face of adversity.

“Waves of change may push you around and distract you – it happens to everyone,” Troop said. “In many situations, the only thing you can control is how you react.”

Using a seagoing analogy, Troop said when a formidable wind shakes the boat, a pessimist will complain about the wind, and an optimist will believe the winds will change, but a realist adjusts his sails to continue on his journey.

“Remain calm and focus on what you can control,” Troop said. “Adjust the sails.”

Troop advised the seniors to add the word “yet” to their vocabulary and use it when needed.

“There’s a power in ‘yet,’ because while you may not be where you want to be right now, saying ‘yet’ increases the possibilities and gives you more time,” Troop said. “Believe me when I say that who you are today is not all you will become. Adjust your sails in a way that helps you to attain your dreams.”

High School Principal Dr. Scott Galen told the students they had been given the gift of a great education.

“Let wisdom and discernment guide you as you embark on something new,” Galen said. “No matter what your circumstances, you have a choice when something ends; you can look ahead.”

Quoting Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz, Galen told the students, in time of crisis they should give themselves 24 hours to cry, then move on.

“Because tomorrow, you’re not looking back,” Galen said. “God gave you eyes in the front of your head for a reason.”

Board President Timothy Stayer encouraged the students to always keep learning to ensure success in life.

Change is inevitable and challenges will occur, Stayer said, but change brings possibilities.

“Remember, we cannot become what we are meant to be by remaining the same,” Stayer said.

Senior speakers

Five seniors addressed their classmates, including class president Faith Myers; valedictorian Anne Sensenig; co-salutatorians Ashton Weaver and Seth Bollinger, and chosen by consensus, Jennie Young.

Valedictorian Anne Sensenig, who achieved the highest grade point average of the senior class, told the graduates that their time at Ephrata, while important, is only a small fraction of their lives and does not define their future.

“The amount of As and Bs on your transcript and the number of friends you can name does not ensure a successful tomorrow,” Sensenig said. “It is your attitude, work ethic, and desire that will determine the direction you take in life from here on out.”

Class president Faith Myers encouraged her fellow students to focus on the beginnings before them, rather than looking back at all the endings.

“For the past 18 years we were told what to do by people who want the best for us…but now it’s our decision,” Myers said. “We get to choose this next road, so make sure it’s a path toward the life you want to live.”

Even if they make a wrong turn in their decisions, it’s always possible to get back on the right road and find the way to their destination, Myers said.

“The diplomas in our hands today are really just learners’ permits for the rest of our drive through life,” Myers said.

Senior Jennie Young encouraged her classmates to be fearless when forging their future.

“It is time for a new beginning and as we find our place, we can choose between following the world or creating the opportunity for change,” Young said.

Quoting writer Suzy Kassem, Young said, “ ‘Doubt and fear kills more dreams than failure ever will,’ so be fearless, take risks, and follow your dreams.”

Ashton Weaver, co-salutatorian, said it had been an uphill journey for many of them to get to graduation.

“It doesn’t look like things are going to get any easier from this point on,” Weaver said. “But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing; we just have to keep building our strength and endurance, and hopefully, we’ll reach the end with stronger beliefs, better character, and lots of new stories to tell.”

Seth Bollinger, the co-salutatorian, spoke about change, admitting that it can be a scary concept.

“Graduation is just the beginning to a whole new world of change ahead &tstr; but don’t let that frighten you,” Bollinger said. “Seize the opportunity to grow personally while changing throughout your life. God has amazing plans for each and every one of us, plans laid out far beyond anything we could possibly imagine.”

Bollinger quoted his favorite author, C. S. Lewis, who said “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

“As we leave this place today, hold your head up high with anticipation for the change that is coming as we end this era and begin another,” Bollinger said. “You have the power to change your story.”

The big moment

Alexis Baker was the first senior to walk across the stage to get her diploma, while her dad, Darrell, and his partner, Beth Asquith, watched the ceremonies.

Asquith held a balloon stating “WooHoo! You did it!” a sentiment that typified the atmosphere of the evening.

“She’s excited about graduation,” Asquith said. “Now, she’d like to go into some kind of child care. We’re proud of her.”

In the front row were three generations of Grace Marie Camacho’s family; Mom Janelle; grandma Juana Camacho; and great-grandmother Dolores Wolfe of Annville.

“This is my first one graduating and I’m a little nervous,” said Mom Janelle. “But I have three more behind her, so I’ll be coming here for awhile. I think she’s ready to be done, ready to move onto the next part of her life.”

Right now, Grace Marie is considering attending Reading Area Community College or looking into cosmetology schools, her mother said.

Grandmother Juana Camacho, holding graduation balloons, said Grace Marie is her fifth grandchild to be graduating.

“I feel so proud, very much,” Juana Camacho said. “All graduations are important.”

Great-grandmother Dolores Wolfe, 88, came from Annville, Lebanon County, to view Grace Marie’s graduation.

“This is my third great-granddaughter graduating, but the only one I’ve been able to see, because there weren’t enough tickets for the others,” Wolfe said. “I’m happy I can be here tonight.”

Linda and Bob Nafe of Ephrata enjoyed seeing their second daughter, Nicole, walk across the stage to get her diploma.

“It’s very exciting,” Bob Nafe said. “This is a very nice facility and the school did a wonderful job.”

“I’m glad that the graduation ceremony is outside,” Linda Nafe said. “I hope all schools keep their graduations outside, because it’s just not the same and there’s never enough room when it’s held indoors.”

Nicole’s grandfather, Korean War veteran Leroy “Skip” Mull, 87, also came to see his granddaughter graduate, and called the evening “beautiful.”

Nicole is planning to continue her education in the medical field, her mom said.

Graduating Senior Tristan Beebe’s grandmother Corinna Bender, was there for Tristan, along with other family members.

“This is my first grandchild graduating and we’re excited for him,” Bender said. “It’s been a rough road for him. He works with his grandpa at a computer place and that’s been good for him and I think he’s going to continue his education.”

For senior Madison Jones, it was her big sister, Ciara Beltran and her partner, Iyana Ballard, who came to cheer on their favorite senior.

“She’s accomplished a lot this year; she was on the basketball team and at the CTC,” Ballard said. “The fact that she’s leaving us, it’s kind of exciting but it’s heartbreaking at the same time. I’m flabbergasted at all she’s done and we’re very proud of her.”

Madison will be enlisting in the military, Beltran said.

John Millisock proudly watched daughter Maria Lynn cross the stage in her purple and gold.

“I feel great about it, but I can’t believe that she’s actually graduating,” Millisock said.

Stepmom Brittany Newmaster was also proud of Maria Lynn.

“She’s come a long way,” Newmaster said. “We’re very proud of her. She’s had a rough life, but it’s not the end. She has a bright future.”

Carrying a bouquet of pink roses for her senior, mom Dena Hostetter was also proud of her daughter, Samantha.

“She plans to go to college and become a therapist,” Hostetter said. “I’m happy; she’s my third child graduating, but my youngest daughter is going to France next year on a scholarship, so I don’t know if I’ll get to see another graduation here.”

For the parents of Chase Kelly, the evening was the welcome end of the high school years.

“I’m very happy it’s over; it’s been a long journey,” said mom Donna Kelly. “I’m glad he’s done and hopefully, he’ll have a great future ahead. I’m proud of the whole class.”

Chase’s grandfather, Lt. Tom Adamec, a retired police lieutenant with the Winchester, Massachusetts Police Department, came south for the graduation and the family gathering that was scheduled to follow.

“This is my first grandchild graduating and it was very nice,” Adamec said. “It’s very different from the graduations we had years ago. Now he can go on to bigger and better things, whatever he wants to pursue.”

Senior Spencer Haus was surrounded by family after the ceremony; mom Dana, dad Chris, and sister Danielle, 16.

“I’m proud of him for getting to this point in his life,” said dad Chris.

Even though Spencer said he didn’t feel any differently, Mom spoke with tears in her eyes.

“It’s over; it’s been a long road and he made it,” mom Dana said. “It’s over and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review who covers the Ephrata Area School District.

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