NHS seniors face many emotions on graduation day

Cary Ashby • May 28, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Whether they were excited or full of nerves beforehand, the 175 members of the Norwalk High School class of 2019 received their diplomas Sunday. And as valedictorian Anna Little said, the experience ended up being a reality — not the myth or fairy tale it once seemed to be.

Ilaya Edington said she was “definitely sad” before the 159th annual annual commencement.

“I’ve definitely cried a lot since the last day of school since I’m going to miss everyone,” added the daughter of Robert and Carissa, who most enjoyed playing trumpet in the marching band for the Friday night football games. “I want to go to EHOVE (Career Center) for cosmetology. I enjoy doing hair and makeup.”

Many of the newest NHS alumni will head to the work force. Admittedly “excited and nervous” before graduation, Leonela Escobar, the daughter of Nelva Gonzalez and Bersain Escobar, plans on landing a job. However, she said she might be end up attending college or EHOVE in the future.

Other graduates such as Alysha Ziemba are going straight to college. She will be studying psychology at Kent State University.

“i just think it’s an interesting subject and there so many people to help with it,” said the daughter of Scott and Vickie, whose favorite Norwalk memory was the Truckers football team making it to the state semifinals. “It’s so fun to be in the student section and leading the cheers because we’re seniors.”

Nick Smith, the son of Jeffery and Jen, hasn’t decided on a major at Bowling Green State University. However, he plans on going into the business school.

“I want to own my own business some day,” he said.

His favorite NHS memory was the personal record he had during his final swim meet.

“It felt good. I worked hard for it; I was proud of it,” said Smith, who was on the Truckers team for four years.

About a dozen graduates will serve their country.

Little, who will attend the the U.S. Air Force Academy, encouraged her classmates to find their motivation in order live a meaningful life. Early in her speech the valedictorian included dozens of clichés heard in graduation speeches, but later switched gears from being tongue-in-cheek to providing her own wisdom, including the importance of sharing one’s gifts with others.

“Nothing matters more than the impact you leave on others,” added the daughter of Jeff and Anna. “You are the love that you give. You are the kindness you show. You are the impact that you make in others lives, the change for the better.”

Classmates honored the memory and legacy of the late Margaret N. Swanbeck, who had an open seat among the graduates. The daughter of Carl and Angela was a sophomore when she died Nov. 9, 2016 at age 15 after battling Stevens-Johnson Syndrome for the last six weeks of her life at Akron Children’s Hospital.

“She represented the simple acts that could do so much for others. Margaret was always looking out for her friends,” said Little, who recalled that Swanbeck yelled out the correct way to pronounce Little’s first name during the talent show their freshman year.

“She called everyone special little names, mostly saying things like, ‘I love you, my little bean.’ She joined the swim team and worked hard, but more than that, she was one of the greatest cheerleaders I have ever seen. She stood at the end of the lanes and yelled at her friends to motivate them,” Little added.

Class president Morgan Griffith, also the prom queen, said Swanbeck’s death should teach everyone that “every day is not a promise and every day is a gift.” Griffith also encouraged her classmates to to weather adversity and remember “the comeback is better than the setback.”

Salutatorian JJ Hackenburg used a somewhat obscure “Star Wars” reference involving the “tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise” to share the lesson of never being complacent.

“To avoid complacency, you must continually strive for success while keeping in mind that success is entirely relative,” said the son of John Hackenburg and Theresa Riley. “We have a lifetime of opportunities ahead of us, but the question is, will we seize them? Your future really is in your hands; nobody is going to make it for you.”

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