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Park High School lauds Class of 2019

Newly minted Park High School graduates toss their caps at the conclusion of their June 2 commencement ceremony. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 6
Newly minted Park High School graduates Grace Akhalu, Emma Schmillen and Lillyann Niewind (from left) celebrate at their June 2 commencement ceremony. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 6
Lisa Mead (left) and Maddison Mead get photos and video of family member and Park High School senior Arianna Marie Mead. Park held its commencement ceremony June 2 at Aldrich Arena. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia 3 / 6
South Washington County Schools Superintendent Keith Jacobus congratulated Park High School seniors during the commencement ceremony June 2, 2019 at Aldrich Arena. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 6
Graduating Park High School seniors got plenty of support from friends and family during the June 2 commencement ceremony at Aldrich Arena. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 6
Park High School seniors Angie LaBarre, Grace Akhalu, Emma Schmillen and Lillyann Niewind (from left) wait for the cue to toss their caps during the school's commencement ceremony June 2, 2019 at Aldrich Arena. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 6

SOUTH WASHINGTON COUNTY SCHOOLS — A jubilant Wolfpack launched their hats and their hopes skyward at Park High School's June 2 commencement.

The Class of 2019 received a rousing sendoff inside a packed Aldrich Arena. The ceremony began with the Edward Elgar chestnut "Pomp and Circumstance" and concluded with a rafter-shaking rendition of "Hail to the Wolfpack" by Thomas Storm and the Park High School combined bands.

Student speaker Grace Enosata Akhalu exhorted her fellow seniors to embrace challenge. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she talked about her own struggles to live up to the high standards of her culture and overcoming the crippling effects of self-doubt.

"Class of 2019, you are here to receive a piece of your path to your future," she said. "You have a chance to be better ... Yes, challenges will be there but do not be afraid of them. They're there for your own good ... Show people that your pain and struggles define you, but not for your detriment but for success. Become a voice that has never before been heard, and use it to speak words of compassion, integrity and truth."

Staff Speaker Maria Tol, AVID elective teacher and program coordinator, told students that winning was less important than participation.

"Show up. Volunteer. Join groups," Tol said. "You will make a difference."

The reflective mood of the afternoon gave way to excitement during the presentation of diplomas. Each green-gowned senior who stepped onstage had their own cheering section in the bleachers. The echoes resounded and overlapped with each new burst of whoops and applause.

District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus delivered the official acceptance of the Class of 2019.

"I'd like to thank the parents, guardians and loved ones that helped support these great young people," Jacobus told the audience. "To the graduates, I want to thank you for questioning us, for pushing us, and for disagreeing with us. Because you made us better educators. We are better in 2019 than we were in 2018, because you were here."

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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