7:52 PM EDT, June 9, 2012
As the sea of 190 graduates made its way to Kaley Field for their commencement Saturday, Megan Misiak stood out as the embodiment of strength and perseverance in Greencastle-Antrim Senior High School’s Class of 2012.
With the look of determination on her face, she guided her wheelchair down the track, onto the new turf field and to her goal of graduating with the class.
“I didn’t think I’d make it,” Misiak said through tears.
She battled back from a vehicle accident during the first week of her senior year.
“She is just extraordinary. She is an amazing young lady. She’s going to do great things,” school counselor Diane Reed said.
Misiak will attend Shippensburg University majoring in elementary education.
As school board member Brian Hissong handed Misiak her diploma, she received a standing ovation from her fellow classmates.
Senior class President Patricia Ann Kotrady said the school district has laid the groundwork for the class’ future.
“Whether you are moving on to higher education, serving in the military, going into the workforce or taking over the family farm — each one of us must find our natural gift and contribute to the competitive society we are about to face,” Kotrady said.
“My mother’s advice has always been to find something you love and pursue it with determination,” she said.
Valedictorian Lauren Jo Grove said the class is about to embark on a scary, new chapter.
“Eleanor Roosevelt said: ‘Do one thing each day that scares you,’ this is my challenge to you,” Grove said.
She told the class not to get caught up in a routine, and become complacent and comfortable.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” Grove said.
The first salutatorian to speak, Nathan Lee Hykes, congratulated his classmates on reaching 13 years of education.
Repeating a prayer from late University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant, Hykes said: “It is the beginning of a new day. God has given us this day to use but once. You can waste it or use it for good.
“Class of 2012, as we walk across this stage, we will be starting our new day — the first day of the rest of our lives,” Hykes said.
Salutatorian Gregory Arthur Boyer said the class was the strongest to pass through the high school.
Boyer said at least five of the class lost someone in their immediate family. The loss of Adam Dixon in January 2009 and almost losing Megan Misiak in the fall of 2011 made the class strong, he said.
“We supported each other, cried with each other, held each other — we as a class are perceived as strong and supporting and uplifting,” Boyer said.
“Look back at not only what our class has done, but what we are capable of, and that will give you pretty good answers. We’ve always been told the sky’s the limit, but remember there are footprints on the moon so set your goals high.”
Schools Superintendent C. Gregory Hoover encouraged the graduating class to treat the next phase of their lives with the same enthusiasm they did when they entered kindergarten in 1998.
High school Principal Edward Rife said of 190 graduates, 45 graduated with a grade-point-average of 3.5 or higher.
Twenty-one students planned to enlist in the military, and the class earned over $1.2 million in scholarships and awards, he said.
Commencement speaker Curt Kendall, a 1977 Greencastle graduate, said that despite being the winningest Division III baseball coach in Virginia state history, winning isn’t the only measure.
“Winning truly isn’t everything. The measure of our success as individuals should be made on how we lead our lives each and everyday,” said Kendall, head baseball coach at Bridgewater College.
When he was striking out into the world in 1977, Kendall said he was quickly swept away by the pace of society. He cautioned the graduating class to think about their decisions.
“Looking back I was able to see the decisions I made following high school affected my life. Not all were bad decisions — those decisions without thought sometimes later caused pain and hurt. The fast-paced world swept me off my feet and will sweep you off your feet ....,” he said.
”Graduating Class of 2012, your support system will begin to let go, and you will begin to make your own decisions. You will become accountable for your decisions. Continue to learn because you don’t know it all,” Kendall said. “Slow down and evaluate those decisions.”
Greencastle-Antrim Senior High School
Number of graduates: 190
Valedictorian: Lauren Jo Grove
Salutatorians: Nathan Lee Hykes, Gregory Arthur Boyer