Whitehall News

Class of 2013 commencement

Dobbert-Meloy touts enthusiasm, energy

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Whitehall City Schools Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy looked around the room June 15 as 153 graduating seniors, along with their numerous family members and friends, gathered at the Aladdin Shrine Center at Easton.

The departing leader then addressed the crowd.

"I think that if the electric companies could harness the energy that's in this room today, we probably would never have any energy crisis," she said. "Your enthusiasm and excitement (are) palatable."

Parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends seemed challenged to hold in their enthusiasm as the graduating seniors processed into the grand ballroom. One by one, as the seniors passed by, whoops and hollers began to erupt until one big roar for the graduating class of 2013 exploded.

With balloons and banners dotting the room, along with rings from the occasional cow bell and whistle, a standing-room-only crowd applauded the graduating class as 153 WYHS seniors crossed the stage to receive their diplomas.

Wise words were prevalent among those who took to the stage, young and old alike.

The most emotional moment of the morning came during Carl Svagerko's address.

Svagerko -- his students call him Mr. S. -- came to WYHS as principal when members of the class of 2013 were arriving as freshman. They shared four years of growth, he said. They shared some hard times, too. And seeing them cross the stage as graduates proved to be an emotional experience for him.

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are," he said, choking back tears. "Do not forget where you came from or who helped shape who you are today."

He spoke of the graduates as family.

"The Ram family, who has courageously struggled together, can become who we are today," he said.

Dobbert-Meloy, who will retire at the end of the month, stood at the podium for one final address. Members of the class of 2013 were mere kindergartners when she arrived in the district some 13 odd years ago.

"As a child, you may have grown up to think you wanted to be Spider-Man or Wonder Woman," she told the seniors. "While obviously you don't believe that anymore -- I hope -- each of you have the powers within you to take you a long way, if only you use them ... Your powers will help you achieve the goals you set for yourself in life."

Many students spoke of those goals and the challenges that already have been laid before them in their young lives.

Ifa Abduljelil, one of five valedictorians who addressed fellow classmates June 15, came to the United States from Ethiopia in 2003 and arrived in Whitehall when he was in sixth grade. He spoke of the many challenges that have shaped his life, honoring his father in particular for his support.

"If I look back, I would never change myself or who I am today," he told his fellow classmates.

Ramon Weldemicael, who came to the United States from East Africa five years ago, faced his own challenges, which he knows will continue in life.

"You will have to overcome obstacles in the future," the valedictorian told his classmates. "And every road you take in life will not be easy."

Fellow valedictorian Samantha Gogol agreed.

"Life's about all the choices we make," she said, acknowledging that she was not always the best student. In middle school, Gogol said, she faced many personal challenges in life that affected her education. But she made a conscious effort to change.

"Wisdom doesn't come with age but experience," she said.

Oscar Rubio, another of the five valedictorians, pointed out that it's not just the challenges in life that shape a person, but also the friends who surround him or her, as well.

Rubio, who moved to Ohio from California in seventh grade, left many friends behind. He quoted an old Spanish proverb, translating, "Tell me who you are with, and I will tell you who you are."

He cautioned his classmates to make wise friendship choices in life.

"Our friends now will reflect who we will want to be in the future," he said. "It is up to us to make connections that will help up in our future endeavors."

Valedictorian Anna Butler said in conclusion, "Change is inevitable and often intimidating. Many times change is something you can't control."

It could be viewed as either an obstacle or an opportunity, she said. Butler encouraged her classmates to choose the latter.

Gogol took her last moments on stage to capture the experience on Vine, a short, 6-second-looping video shared via cellphone. It was her final farewell.

"This isn't goodbye," Svagerko said. "This is just a simple 'See you later.' "

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