ST. LEON – The 46th annual commencement exercise at East Central High School Sunday, June 2, was a bittersweet celebration for the Class of 2019.
Although diplomas were granted and tassels turned in the customary manner, the 273 graduates couldn't help but think of one classmate who wasn't able to walk across the stage.
"Brett was a ray of sunshine even on the foggiest of days," senior class President Ashley Miller said in fond remembrance of Bretton Fox, whose life was taken in an automobile accident Feb. 21.
"The memories each of us have of him show how truly memorable he was," she continued. "Brett may not be here today, but he lives on in all of us and will never be forgotten."
A moment of silence ensued. Later, during conferral of diplomas, assistant principal Jamie Rosfeld had to pause after reading Fox's name on account of a standing ovation and respectful applause.
Early in the ceremony, class co-sponsor Marcie Trossman introduced National Honor Society President Jared Tiemann.
"Thank you for bringing hope into the darkest of situations," Tiemann prayed in a lead-in to the national anthem. "Thank you for bringing us all here today to celebrate a new chapter in our lives. Every aspect of our lives from here on out, we count on you for. Our futures may be uncertain, but we want you to remain the top priority in our lives."
Paige Gindling, as student body president, was the next member of the outgoing class to address her peers. She began by thanking all of the parents for their ongoing dedication. "Your devotion to our educations over these last 12 years has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated," she stated.
Gindling added that "even though we've been counting down the years, months and days to this day, we should begin to embrace each moment in time and start to make a difference.
"We can remember the past, but we can't relive it," she went on. "Please make all your days count and take advantage of everything life has to offer. My papaw always said, 'Wherever you go, there you are.' I say that wherever you are, make the most of it."
Next to be recognized among the red mortarboards were the Southeastern Career Center graduates and those receiving the Indiana Academic Honors and/or the Technical Honors Diploma. Rosfeld announced the 26 students choosing to take advantage of the career center curricula, then followed that with 218 names accompanied by one or both of the Indiana or Technical honors distinctions.
Assistant principal Chad Swinney took to the podium for special recognition of the Class of 2019's 74 honor graduates. He read the top grade-point averages in ascending fashion, finishing with the second-ranked Miller (4.239) and top-ranked Molly Graham (4.324).
Eight East Central Trojans will carry on the warrior spirit in the U.S. armed forces. The octet stood for a rousing hand from the audience, and Swinney followed by recognizing all active or retired military personnel in the gymnasium. The ECHS band and chorus then collaborated on their version of "I Lived" by OneRepublic.
Principal Tom Black – the fourth such individual this class had seen filling that role – had the honor of presenting the graduating class. He took a brief moment to say a few words. "Thank you for making my first year at East Central a special one," he told them. "Your class will always be special to me."
Black added that "every day won't be perfect and every day won't be easy, but my challenge to you is to choose to make every day the best it can be."
After the last of the diplomas was handed out, the senior class officers retired the Class of 2019 banner. On it were the words of John F. Kennedy: "Our pasts are behind us, our lives are before us, and our memories are forever within us."
Miller called Sunday the "first leg of our own separate journeys in life.
"We will go into different areas and discover our own interests and passions ... but one thing we all have in common is growth," she continued. "The choices we've made have shaped our lives thus far; now is the time to decide how to grow our futures.
"We all make mistakes and we'll make more, but Albert Einstein once said, 'A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.' You have to take risks and try new things. Now is the time to take hold of our lives and prosper. We're the ones to control our own futures and make our own destinies."
Will Fehlinger can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 112.