Falcons soar at commencement, speak of loss, hope, and taking in the moment


By Jonathan Delozier - jdelozier@civitasmedia.com



Carol Lynn Stevens is ready to celebrate after receiving her diploma Friday in a ceremony at Firelands High School.


Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

The graduates walk into the ceremony in pairs. Pictured here are Nicholas McCrary and Hailey Mezurek.


Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Hats go flying after tassels are turned at the 63rd Annual Firelands commencement ceremony, held Friday.


Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Class president Libby Skolnik thanks family, friends, and teachers for help along the way.


Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Matthew Brightbill speaks about befriending new classmates toward the end of the year.


Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Sarah Slack says hanging out with the “smart crowd” is always a good move in high school.


Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Superintendent Michael Von Gunten tells graduates to be “doers.”


Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Falcons band members welcome attendees to the ceremony.


Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

The senior choir performs an original song written for director Wendy Johnson.


Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

One hundred thirty six Falcons soared into the next chapter of their lives Friday during Firelands High School’s 63rd commencement ceremony.

Clear skies served as a perfect backdrop for students, faculty, and administrators to line the school’s football field in front of a capacity crowd.

Speaking were four of 13 summa cum laude graduates with GPAs greater than 4.0, including class president Libby Skolnik, Emily Wagner, Matthew Brightbill, and Sarah Slack.

“Today is the day we’ve been dreaming about since we were little,” said Skolnik. “We finally made it. Although, speaking for my class, we all wouldn’t have gotten this far without the endless support and encouragement from our families. You’ve watched us grow from little preschoolers to the seniors we are now. You’ve helped us with homework and projects, cheered us on at our games, watched endless choir and band concerts, and so much more. But what we remember the most is the love you have us through it all.”

“As a person, you should choose who you want to become,” Wagner said. “It’s not the choice of your mother, father, best friend or significant other. At this turning point in life we become adults. It’s time we choose who we’re becoming without factoring others into that equation.”

“We all spent our elementary and middle school years yearning to get to high school and graduate,” said Brightbill. “Now that the time is here, I along with many others wish we could experience it just a little longer. I saw a post on Twitter in January about really finding joy and companionship with your classmates in high school. I started following its recommendations, like taking every opportunity to talk to classmates I never had before. That made the last months of my high school days something I’ll truly cherish forever.”

“Go out of your way to hang out with the smart kids,” said Slack. “Even if you don’t understand what they’re saying, you should laugh anyway, blend in, and you can Google it later. Growing up in a cornfield, we were all stuck together here whether we liked it or not. That made us a tight-knit group of kids filled with the pride of being Falcons.”

The Class of 2017 earned 28 honors diplomas and $910,000 in scholarship offers. When combined with 829 college credits notched by the seniors, the money totals over $1.3 million toward their college educations, said principal Robert Maver.

Superintendent Michael Von Gunten provided remarks just before diplomas were handed out.

“In a few minutes, your title of student will quickly change to graduate with a slight move of your tassels,” he said. “It’s an accomplishment close to 3,000 school days in the making. The past 13 years, you’ve celebrated accomplishments and supported each other through the curveballs of life.”

“John Wooden (famed UCLA basketball coach) once said if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything,” he said. “I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes. My challenge to the Class of 2017 is to be a doer. Know that not setting challenging goals for yourself is a lot bigger mistake than sitting on the sidelines of life.”

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

Carol Lynn Stevens is ready to celebrate after receiving her diploma Friday in a ceremony at Firelands High School.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/06/web1_IMG_8582.jpgCarol Lynn Stevens is ready to celebrate after receiving her diploma Friday in a ceremony at Firelands High School.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

The graduates walk into the ceremony in pairs. Pictured here are Nicholas McCrary and Hailey Mezurek.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/06/web1_IMG_8518.jpgThe graduates walk into the ceremony in pairs. Pictured here are Nicholas McCrary and Hailey Mezurek.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Hats go flying after tassels are turned at the 63rd Annual Firelands commencement ceremony, held Friday.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/06/web1_IMG_8591.jpgHats go flying after tassels are turned at the 63rd Annual Firelands commencement ceremony, held Friday.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Class president Libby Skolnik thanks family, friends, and teachers for help along the way.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/06/web1_IMG_8533.jpgClass president Libby Skolnik thanks family, friends, and teachers for help along the way.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Matthew Brightbill speaks about befriending new classmates toward the end of the year.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/06/web1_IMG_8537.jpgMatthew Brightbill speaks about befriending new classmates toward the end of the year.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Sarah Slack says hanging out with the “smart crowd” is always a good move in high school.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/06/web1_IMG_8540.jpgSarah Slack says hanging out with the “smart crowd” is always a good move in high school.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Superintendent Michael Von Gunten tells graduates to be “doers.”
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/06/web1_IMG_8544.jpgSuperintendent Michael Von Gunten tells graduates to be “doers.”

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

Falcons band members welcome attendees to the ceremony.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/06/web1_IMG_8590.jpgFalcons band members welcome attendees to the ceremony.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

The senior choir performs an original song written for director Wendy Johnson.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/06/web1_IMG_8586.jpgThe senior choir performs an original song written for director Wendy Johnson.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media

By Jonathan Delozier

jdelozier@civitasmedia.com