Canners conquer: Biglerville graduates Class of 2023

First, the Biglerville High School students bound for college or trade school stood up.

Nearly 70 graduates in black and gold rose from their seats on the stadium field to meet the applause thundering from the bleachers Thursday night. They represented more than half of the 117 members of the Class of 2023.

Then, the students on their way to the military were asked to stand. The crowd whistled and cheered for the select few who chose to serve.

Finally, the students who plan to enter the workforce were recognized. The Canner community clapped in support.

“Now, from your spot where you’re standing, I would like you to shake hands with the classmates beside you, in front of you, behind you,” Upper Adams School Board President Jim Lady instructed. “Thank them for being there for the last 12 years.”

Graduates grinned, some a bit bashfully, and grasped hands.

“Most likely you probably shook a classmate’s hand that you may never see again after tonight,” Lady said. 

At least three grads knew they would see each other, and soon.

Dylanie Castillo-Salazar, Yadira Garcia, and Cohen Compton will attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Garcia will study accounting, while Castillo-Salazar and Compton will major in secondary education.

Before the graduation ceremony began, the three posed for a photo with other members of the Latinx Club, wearing colorful stoles to represent their involvement.

Garcia said Spanish class was instrumental in helping her learn to read and write in Spanish. In the commencement program, Garcia was listed as the recipient of the Pennsylvania State Seal of Biliteracy Award.

Castillo-Salazar reminisced about different school events like the Canner Bowl and the ways she was able to connect with the community.

Compton fondly recalled the tennis team’s 2023 district title win, where he had a starting role.

“It meant a lot to me,” he said.

Graduates’ personalities shined through their expressions as they walked down the stadium track. Some shook their heads in apparent embarrassment as loved ones cheered, while others beamed and waved at the crowd.

Many students expressed themselves by decorating their graduation caps. Arianna Witherow’s cap sparkled in the hot sun.

It read, “Off to make smiles brighter,” and included an image of a white tooth with rhinestones.

Witherow hopes to enter the workforce straightaway as a dental assistant. Her dental studies at Cumberland Perry Area Career & Technical Center prepared her for this role, and she has a certificate to prove it.

“I feel like I accomplished something,” Witherow said.

The graduation ceremony kicked off with a welcome in Spanish, and then English, from graduate Brylee Rodgers. She encouraged her classmates to find what fulfills them in life.

Salutatorian Luke Showers challenged his peers to conquer.

“Whatever you decide to do in life, give it your all,” Showers said. “Wake up each day with a desire to do more than just exist. Wake up with a desire to conquer.”

Senior class fundraising coordinator Gabriella Pirich announced the Class of 2023’s gift to the district — new banners for the poles in the parking lot, in the hopes that they will instill Canner pride for years to come.

High school Principal Beth Graham lauded students for the ways they have grown. Each class designs the cover of the commencement program, she said, and this year’s floral design represented students blossoming.

Superintendent Wesley Doll offered advice found in the pages of a 1963-1964 copy of the Biglerville High School student handbook, which was recently donated to the school archives.

The old handbook advised students to work hard, be kind and make a positive impact on the community. Doll encouraged students to continue learning and never stop dreaming.

Valedictorian Natalie Showaker acknowledged the hard work that has happened outside the classroom.

“I know many students in our class who leave school to work a part-time job to save money for college, or those who go to club sports practices right after school to continue to grow as a player after their season is over,” Showaker said.

She said that hard work can never be stripped from them.

“Our futures are shaped not by what is to come, but rather by the things that we did in the past and what we do today,” Showaker said. “Biglerville High School will always be your past, a past filled with great memories of being a Canner and valuable lessons learned from listening and observing our role models.”

Lady had the last word before graduates received their diplomas.

“This community has supported you for the last 12 years,” he said. “No matter where your physical address is, Upper Adams will always be home.”

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Mary Grace Kauffman, freelance reporter, worked six years as a full-time reporter for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Maryland. She has covered topics including business, crime, education, government and features. Mary Grace has a bachelor's degree in communication/journalism from Shippensburg University. She resides in Adams County.

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Wanda Clapper
Wanda Clapper
9 months ago

My grandson just graduated from Biglerville High Yesterday, they were all so beautiful in their cap and gowns. I’m so proud to be a grandparent of a graduate from Biglerville.

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