ONAWAY -Dressed in caps and gowns, 34 members of Onaway High School's 2013 graduating class received words of wisdom from their mentors, as well as salutes from classmates who spoke at Sunday's graduation ceremony.
After receiving their diplomas and watching a slideshow, the seniors turned their tassels, congratulated one another and will now move on with there lives beyond high school.
Principal Marty Mix kicked off the emotional celebration by welcoming those in attendance and telling the class how proud of them the school system is. He went on to tell the students that no matter where life takes them after Sunday, they always will be welcome at the school and in town.
"You have excelled in so many ways and are in for amazing successes. You will take with you what you have learned here and will use it to help make decisions to advance and achieve," Mix said. "Always remember this is your home and you are always welcome at home."
Superintendent Rod Fullerton shared some quick facts about the students during his speech. He said 58 percent of the graduating class, or 19 of the 33 graduates, carried a 3.0 grade point average with them for the four years in high school. He talked about obstacles and the need to fight through difficult times in life and to learn from the experience.
Salutatorian Chester Winfield added a touch of humor with his speech, which touched on little known facts about oddball topics. After the joking stopped, however, Winfield reflected back to when his graduated class began school and growing up together.
"It seems like a lifetime ago that we were walking through the halls as freshmen and at the time it didn't seem like a big deal, now I'm not so convinced it wasn't," Winfield said. "I think if I had a time machine and could take it back to any point in my life, I think it would be to this time, right here. What a day. I get to share the stage with people I have known almost my entire life.
"My biggest fear is I won't get to see some of the people I care about most after this day. After this school, work and service will separate us and we may forget the names and faces of some, but in a way we are kind of like family."
There were four co-Valedictorians for the class of 2013. Kallie Shimel, Cassidy Hyde, Emily Estep and Megan Estep. Emily and Megan Estep presented their speech as a duo. They said they did so because they are twins and do almost everything together and wanted their graduation experience to see the same. The two took turns talking about the challenges of school and the direction the staff, family, friends and the community have set for them.
"Getting here to stand up on this stage was not easy. There were many lights of study, tears over grades you didn't like and lots and lots of hard work and dedication, but we have done it," Megan Estep said. "People say these years are the best of our lives and they say that for a reason. When we think about Onaway, no matter where we are in the future, we will think of the lessons we have learned that this town has taught us. We will be stronger people because we grew up here and because of the lessons we have learned here."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.