'Seated before you on this stage is the future'

Stacey Hartley • Updated May 28, 2019 at 4:28 PM

COLLINS — Western Reserve’s graduating class of 2019 were charged to be “poets,” “powerful beyond measure” and to never forget their Western Reserve family.

At the end of Sunday’s commencement ceremony, the number of Western Reserve alumni increased by 83.

“Seated before you on this stage is the future,” Principal Lisa Border said.

Because of family members and the school’s faculty, staff and associates, the young people on the stage had “not made their journey alone,” Border added.

In observance of Memorial Day, veterans and members of the armed forces were also recognized, before the principal acknowledged seven members of the class of 2019 who enlisted — four into the Air Force, two to the Marine Corps and one to the Army Reserves.

The class’s salutatorian Hannah Burke, admitted that she nor the rest of the class of 2019 would have made it to commencement without outside influences.

“When a poet speaks, the voices of all the poets who have influenced him are speaking also,” the 18-year-old daughter of Shawn and Kathy Burke said, quoting T.S. Eliot.

Burke, who’ll major in communication sciences and disorders at The Ohio State University in the fall, thanked her parents for encouraging her to be “the best version” of herself and her coaches for teaching her life lessons — in addition to drills.

“We are all poets, each of us has a message to share and live out,” she continued to her classmates. “That’s really the only reason I have anything to say to you today.”

Emma Blankenship, 18, spoke next as the valedictorian and first in her class.

Listing things the seniors were taught throughout their 13-year journey, Chris and Emily’s daughter added “a few more things (for us) to learn.” She then introduced a poem by Marianne Williamson that was quoted in the movie “Coach Carter.” Blankenship said as a member of a basketball family, she’s seen the film 10 times.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,” she quoted. “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

The Ohio Wesleyan University-bound student, who plans to study biomedical engineering, encouraged her “best friends, teammates and peers” to remember the school and community they came from, to not shrink from their “light.”

“We, the class of 2019, are powerful beyond measure,” she said.

The final student speaker was the class president Preston Watson — an 18-year-old who vowed to keep his address short, drawing laughs from the audience as he regaled some memories he felt his fellow graduates would never forget — including the people “who broke up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, Taco Tuesday and the staff that you can tell really love their jobs.”

The son of Jason and Shelly Watson plans to attend West Virginia University and major in chemical engineering.

The class of 2019, that was nervously buzzing and laughing with each other in the cafeteria before the ceremony, moved the tassels on their graduation caps, just moments before throwing them in the air and being released, for the last time, into the high school’s halls. 

Additional class of 2019 honors: 

11 — Cum laude / 3.5 - 3.7 GPA

9 — Magna cum laude / 3.8 - 3.99 GPA

5 — Summa cum laude \ 4.0 or higher GPA

2 — Summa cum laude \ Top honors: Emma Blankenship, 4.4119 GPA, valedictorian; and Hannah Burke, 4.4004 GPA, salutatorian.

15 — STEM scholars

19 — English language arts scholars

31 — Social studies scholars