NEWARK — “By the power invested in me as superintendent of North Fork Local Schools, I declare that the members of the class of 2009 are graduates of Utica High School.”
With those solemn words from Superintendent Scott Hartley, this year’s UHS graduating class and their fans in the audience broke into loud cheers.
The 123rd commencement of UHS seniors took place Sunday afternoon before an overflow crowd at the Career & Technology Education Centers of Licking County in Newark.
One of the three salutatorians, Geoffrey Mitchell, called graduation “this momentous occasion in our lives,” and encouraged his classmates to celebrate their differences and to practice acceptance and inclusion.
“We are people who are not afraid to be different,” he said, “but sadly, there are people who are forced to conform. ... Those who are different should not be treated any differently than those who are orthodox ... let us finally become the generation of acceptance. ... We must let people be who they are, not force them into conformity. Let us be the generation who truly says, ‘with liberty and justice for all.’”
Brittany Vickers, valedictorian, was overcome by emotion when speaking of her classmates and had to pause a moment before she could continue.
“These students that I have had the privilege to learn alongside are some of the most talented and creative people I’ve ever encountered,” she said. “I’m sure that each and every one of you can change the world. Because all it takes is one person to change someone’s world.”
UHS 1982 alumna Jan Hiltner Loomis gave the commencement address.
“How successful and happy you will be in your life all comes down to your attitude,” she told the graduates. “The difference in success or failure is ... how you think. Attitude is everything.”
Loomis told the audience that water heated to 211 degrees is very hot, but raising the temperature just one degree more makes the difference between water that is hot and water that boils and makes steam that can power a locomotive.
The commencement ceremony continued with the official presentation of the class to the audience and the presentation of diplomas. It ended with the singing of the UHS alma mater.
Class advisors are Carolyn Clippinger and Kris Grigsby. The cass motto is “Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”