Flashes from cameras and the occasional iPad illuminated the darkened theater.
Whoops, whistles, and shouts of “We love you K.K.” echoed in the hall.
Emotional parents fished preemptive tissues from their pockets.
And that was all before the 314 soon-to-be graduates of Sylvania Southview filed on stage at the Stranahan Theater for the high school’s 36th annual commencement today.
After the students were seated onstage, school officials gave speeches that showered praise on the seniors’ accomplishments — all warranted, to judge by the numbers.
Southview’s Class of 2012 received a total of $9.3 million in scholarships; 83 students received diplomas with honors, granted by the Ohio Department of Education to students for fulfilling rigorous academic curricula. and 63 graduates were awarded Presidential Academic Fitness Awards for maintaining at least a 3.5 GPA and scoring above the 85th percentile on the SAT or ACT.
When Southview principal David McMurray asked students involved in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or work-study programs to stand, few graduates remained in their chairs.
Despite those objective achievements, though, parents, students, and school officials all emphasized the personal progress students had made, from their days as infants to their preparations to enter college, the military, or the workforce.
Valedictorian Samuel Chang, who graduated with a 4.62 GPA and is bound for Princeton University to study public policy in the fall, summarized his class’s evolution in his own words.
“We began as mere robots, lifeless, with a pointless sense of school,” he described in his speech. “Then we transformed into human beings, who were capable of valuing the experiences of school.”
That development had, he said, all been a part of a routine that included hard work and laughter, and culminated in valuable lessons learned. Along the way, he recalled, there had been hours spent jousting with crutches in shopping carts and playing pirates, both for class assignments.
At the sun-drenched reception outside the theater following commencement, he said his favorite part of high school had been memories like those, and the close-knit network of friends with whom he shared them. He called the experience of graduating “surreal.”
Parents apparently shared that same puzzling mix of feelings: the joy of reaching this milestone, the disbelief that it came so soon, and the anticipation of what will happen next.
Abbas Shahri, whose daughter Sheila graduated today, spoke with evident pride as he described her plans to study neuroscience at the University of Toledo in the fall.
But, he said of his only child’s commencement, “it’s very emotional. It’s very, very exciting but also sad. One door opens and another closes.”
Yet Sylvania Schools’ board of education president Dave Spiess offered graduates a piece of advice in his speech that was sure to please parents like Mr. Shahri.
“Call your parents,” Mr. Spiess reminded the Class of 2012. “Keep in touch. Send them a text message.”
Remember, he said, they love you more than you will ever know.
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