New Oxford High School graduates its 2023 “stars”

New Oxford High School seniors celebrated the end of their school career in a commencement ceremony on Thursday evening.

Faculty, administration, and students reminisced on memories spanning from kindergarten through the graduates’ senior year and voiced optimism for the future.

Principal Christopher Bowman said he was grateful for everything the seniors contributed to the district this year.

“School spirit is back on the rise thanks to the leadership of the members of the student council and varsity club,” Bowman said. “Our Colonial Council is working with the Chamber of Commerce to enhance the signage that welcomes everyone to our wonderful community on the east and west ends of town. We want everyone to know they are in Colonial country.

This class truly excelled in all aspects of our Colonial culture, academically, athletically, musically, theatrically, and socially. Thank you.”

Student speaker Sydney Christner compared the individual students that make up the high school to a mosaic, pointing to one near the lobby entrance of Conewago Valley Intermediate School as an example.

“Like the pieces within the mosaic, each of you is an essential part of a larger image,” Christner said. “From the moment you entered the class of 2023 thirteen years ago to this moment now when you are about to say farewell, you have always been a part of something bigger than you may realize – something that would not be the same without each and every one of you and all you have to offer.”

Christner said the students represent both a tile in the larger school mosaic and a mosaic by themselves.

“All of the decisions you make, passions you cherish, and characteristics you exhibit help to make up the individual mosaic of yourself,” Christner said. “Whether you spent your time in high school playing the sport you love or cheering in the student section, performing on stage with music and theater ensembles or making the show happen as a stage crew or audience member, dedicating yourself to the work of a club within our school or supporting the club by dressing for spirit days and celebrating at pep rallies, everything you did and the memories you made contributed to your personal image, and everything you pursue in the future will continue to add to it.”

Class historian Raiden Shomo called on the students to celebrate both their past and their future.

“Do not forget the glimmer of your childhood, the blaze of your creative spirit, the familiarity of your shared experiences, or the warmth of your friends, and let the light guide you toward your desired future,” Shomo said.

Conewago Valley School District Superintendent Sharon Perry congratulated the students and nodded to their support networks, pointing to support staff, the school board, faculty and administration, and students’ family and friends as helping them achieve success.

Perry also introduced Kara Olewiler, a science teacher at New Oxford High School, as the main speaker.

Olewiler has taught in Conewago Valley for 19 years and fills several other roles, including serving as the advisor for the class of 2023.

Looking out into the sea of graduates, Olewiler said she could recall when they were middle school students.

Olewiler referenced one of her favorite books, “The Scientist in the Crib,” and said it compares young children to scientists as they study their environment.

“We live in science,” Olewiler said. “As we get older, this curiosity diminishes and at times we become complacent and settled. But the natural workings of our brains are designed to explore, to experiment. I challenge you to continue to be that scientist in the crib; the work of our lives is analogous to the work of science: we form a hypothesis, experiment, fail, and try again.”

Olewiler also compared the graduates to stars.

“Those stars shine down on us tonight as all of you shine from your seats as the 2023 graduates of New Oxford High School – bright, full of energy, a guiding light in your own unique way, lighting a path for others to follow,” Olewiler said.

Olewiler said the students each stand out on their own, but are also connected like constellations.

“And so, though the world is vast as you endeavor to make your own paths in the universe, I encourage you to look to the stars, which serve to remind us how connected we all are,” Olewiler said. “Shine your light into this world. Set your sights high and dream big. And if you fail, just like any good scientist, let the light of the stars guide you and remind you that a failed hypothesis is just another opportunity to try again.”

Class president Kaitlyn Frey announced that the class council had purchased picnic tables to install in the outdoor commons area of the high school in order to foster community.

Frey said graduating seemed to be a distant goal before Thursday.

“We have always had formal stepping stones in front of us, telling us exactly where to go next,” Frey said. “This year, as seniors, the formal stepping stones began to break down. On the first day of school this year, I heard we were experiencing, ‘the first of the lasts.’ Then, before I knew it, we cheered through our last game under the bright stadium lights, danced through the last prom with ear-bursting music, won the spirit stick at the last pep rally and unfortunately lost the last Powderpuff game. Now, we’re at the last day – the last of the lasts.”

Before the diplomas were awarded, Bowman announced that a diploma would also be given to the parents of the late Dillon Myers.

Myers, 17, passed away on July 4, 2022 following a car accident and would have graduated this spring.

The class flower marked his intended seat among the graduates. It was presented to his parents along with his diploma.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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