There are no outcasts in the Firelands High School Class of 2017. That’s what makes it so special, said five of the top graduating seniors.
“We really do get along,” said Karli Bukovac. “It’s not like this group doesn’t talk to that other group. We all know each other.”
Principal Bob Maver has served in the education field 27 years. He said the seniors who will don caps and gowns at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2 are among the top three groups of students he’s ever known.
The soon-to-be-graduates care for each other, he said: “They’re like a big family. They’re fun to be around. They’re clearly leaders, trying to set the best examples they can… This group is what’s good about education.”
Roughly 140 FHS seniors are preparing for commencement. Maver said it might be the first class to ever earn more than $1 million in scholarships and grants, though it’s also the smallest graduating class in recent memory.
It’s also the first class not to have a valedictorian and salutatorian. The Firelands board of education voted to do away with the distinctions starting with the Class of 2017; instead, 13 will be recognized with magna cum laude honors.
We sat down with some of the highest-ranked FHS students to talk about their plans:
• With a 4.23 grade point average, Benjamin Laughrey would likely be the valedictorian if the honor were still given. He plans to attend the University of Akron to study aerospace engineering. Laughrey said he wants to work for NASA, inspired by a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where he saw a space shuttle launch. Akron is one of only two schools in the nation to offer an aerospace systems track, which would foster his wish to one day work on propulsion systems.
• Bukovac will attend Kent State University to major in biology. She aims to become a physician’s assistant and work in children’s oncology. “I’ve always wanted to work with kids. In my opinion, if you work with kids, you’ll never hate your job,” she said. A career helping cancer patients is also inspired by her mother, Christiana Reiber, who had leukemia but is now cancer-free.
• Libby Skolnik will attend Ohio State University to study business — possibly marketing or communications. “I like being involved with people, not a desk job. I’d really like public relations,” she said. She’ll follow in the shoes of her father, Skip Skolnik, and grandfather, Ron Skolnik, who each told her she has qualities such as determination and organization that would serve well in the business world.
• Tori Grasso will attend Capital University to major in computer science with a focus in engineering. She said it’s a brand new decision and she is still exploring career options, but she enjoys working with digital devices.
• Hailey Mezurek will attend Pennsylvania State University, double-majoring in human resource management and political science. She is considering law school. Mezurek said she grew up listening to her parents debate political issues from opposite ends of the spectrum, which spurred her interest in debate.
The top graduates said their class is defined by strong leadership and a lack of conformists.
Demonstrating those leadership skills, they shared some advice for underclassmen. They overriding theme: “Work now, play later,” said Lauhrey. “Work hard your freshman year, because some people can’t dig themselves out of the GPA hole,” agreed Skolnik.
But Bukovac disagreed, saying it’s not all about grades. “Play hard,” she said. “You have to have the fun times in order to enjoy your academics as well. Take your work seriously, but be involved in a lot of different things.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.