Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Tigers walk with a little something extra

by R. HANS MILLER
Managing Editor | June 12, 2024 1:20 AM

EPHRATA — The Class of 2024 Tigers walked onto the field to graduate with a bit more pizzazz than some other graduating classes. Backflips, leg sweeps, “proposals,” tons of confetti cannons and even some heavy metal devil horns marked the opening of the ceremony that celebrated Ephrata High School’s most recent graduates.

“Today marks a monumental moment in our lives as we gather here to celebrate years of hard work, dedication and learning,” said opening speaker Harper Grizzel. “Thank you for being a part of our journey, for standing by us through the highs and lows and for making this day even more special with your presence.” 

Throughout the evening, the community celebrated the class of 277 EHS students becoming alums of the school. As they walked to get their diplomas, their initial plans for the future were announced with some planning to join the workforce right away, others the military, many headed toward college or technical school and all of them with accomplishments in the rearview to move them forward into those next steps. Honoring traditions set by classes that came before them helped with that issue, said Hans Roberts, one of this year’s graduates in his remarks at the beginning of the occasion. 

“Being a part of this amazing Class of 2024 has given me so many memories that I will forever cherish and be thankful for, as all of my classmates will too. Our class has been students to the classes that have come before us, carrying their traditions, but also beginning our own with excitement and responsibility,” Hans said. 

Hans’s cousin and EHS Student Body President Hayden Harper spoke just after his cousin. Hayden spoke mostly of gratitude for his classmates, their families, friends and the staff and faculty of the Ephrata School District who supported them in their education. 

“Your guidance, encouragement and belief in our potential has been indispensable on this path to graduation,” Hayden said. 

Rather than traditional valedictorian and salutatorian speakers, Ephrata has a tradition of the graduating class choosing two speakers from among their fellow graduates. This year, Emily Pugh and Brenden St. Mary were chosen to speak. 

In her commentary, Pugh looked back on how the moment of graduation had snuck up quickly on her and her classmates. Their school had been the home of old and new friendships, a variety of new experiences and a great deal of learning. She noted that the class had begun high school during the pandemic, but still managed to work hard and persevere. She noted that time can put a lot of pressure on people, but it can also be beneficial. 

“Time is a beautiful and empowering thing,” Pugh said. “Graduates, let us imagine we are watching the movie of our lives. The plot begins with the sweet nostalgia of our childhood – flashbacks to having only a few cares in the world. The movie progresses into our young adulthood, speckled with worry but filled with us figuring out comforting friendships, heartfelt life lessons and tastes of independence.” 

That film moves forward into adulthood and without the passage of time, Pugh noted that nobody grows as a person without the passage of time. She encouraged her classmates to grow.

“We must take advantage of every opportunity and use this life we have been given to explore our passions, set goals and work hard toward achieving them,” she said. 

St. Mary focused a great deal of his speech on gratitude for the various community members, classmates, teachers, staff and family who helped him and his fellow 2024 Tigers along the way. 

“Every last one of you has touched the lives of at least one student, if not more, and I can speak for them in saying that without you, we would not be here today,” he said. 

When David Tempel, the Class of 2024’s chosen staff speaker, took the stage, he reminisced about silly bets at baseball practice, fun times in his classroom and other things he cherished from the class. He recognized the value the Tiger graduates brought to the community within the walls of EHS and expressed a deep appreciation for their spirit and collective sense of humor. 

“Upon their arrival four years ago as wide, googly-eyed freshmen and leaving now as honored graduates, the Class of 2024 has truly impacted our school in a positive way,” Tempel said. “These students have accomplished great things. Stage championships, high academic and vocational achievements, well-deserved scholarships, amazing artistic performances, positive community involvement – all of that. And for some they achieved what seemed impossible just by getting to this moment.” 

The graduating students made it a point to recognize EHS Principal and incoming Assistant Superintendent Aaron Cummings by having him join them in the ceremony since he was “graduating” to a new position. They provided him a cap and gown and honored him in a brief ceremony showing their appreciation for his efforts. 

St. Mary encouraged his classmates to embrace strengths and flaws and move into the future with confidence. 

“You’re not going to be able to do everything. You’re not going to be able to know everything, but with every flaw, there is something special in all of us. Something you need to offer to the world, so don’t be afraid to show it off,” he said.




    Ephrata High School Principal Aaron Cummings speaks during the graduation ceremony – for the last time as principal. Students had him “graduate” with them by gifting him a cap and gown and congratulating him for becoming the Ephrata School District’s new Assistant Superintendent.
 
 


    Associated Student Body President and now-Ephrata High graduate Hayden Roberts speaks during the Ephrata High commencement ceremony. He congratulated his classmates and expressed deep appreciation for the support the Ephrata community has provided to the 2024 Tigers.
 
 


    Ephrata School District Superintendent Tim Payne smiles as a student walks to collect a diploma. This is Payne’s last EHS graduation as superintendent and he passed out handshakes and congratulations proudly.
 
 
    Emily Pugh delivers her commencement speech during the Ephrata High graduation ceremony. She encouraged her classmates to continue to grow as they moved into adulthood.