Norwalk High's top five graduates are both thankful for the experiences they've had growing up in a small town and ready to head into the future.
The top of the class for NHS share some honors academic letters, honor roll and principal's list for four years and National Honor Society membership but will now pursue their individual dreams.
"All of the graduates will be labeled Norwalk High School Class of 2007, but after that the future is wide open," said valedictorian Alex Howe.
Howe, 17, is the son of Larry and Sharon Howe. He will attend Ohio Wesleyan University on a full scholarship to major in physics and math and plans to eventually earn a Ph.D. and work in physics research.
He will reach that goal with a solid background of academic excellence and extracurricular activities from NHS. In addition to being on the Firelands Challenge team for four years and a co-captain for three, Howe was a band member and section leader and performed in the school orchestra, pep band and wind ensemble. He also was Web content editor as a senior.
Howe was a National Merit Commended Student and a member of the Foreign Language Club and Computer Club at NHS. He participated in various activities at his church throughout high school and joined Teens for Christ.
Stephanie Rickel, 18, the daughter of Eric and Pamela Rickel, is NHS salutatorian. She will attend Spring Arbor University in Michigan to major in Christian youth ministries. She plans to earn a master's degree in divinity and become an ordained Lutheran minister.
"Norwalk is such a nurturing place," the senior said. "I really felt in all the activities I'm involved in that there was always someone there to help me succeed. Without that support, I wouldn't be here."
Rickel said she attended a summer seminary program for teens that led to her future plans. "Last summer I even led a service at Zion Lutheran in Huron and I knew that God was calling me," she said.
At NHS, Rickel participated in Key Club, Firelands Challenge, Foreign Language Club and as aide. Her musical contributions were as a section leader in band, pit orchestra in musicals, orchestra, pep band and wind ensemble.
She also was active in church activities and volunteered at Norwalk Memorial Home.
Jordan Maddocks, 18, is third in his class. The son of Scott and Dora Maddocks is headed to the University of Toledo to major in pharmacy. He also credits the community for his success.
"During the last four years I've come to realize it is my family, fellow students and community who deserve recognition," he said, "for it is they who inspired me to become a better person."
In addition to academic excellence, Maddocks also was active in sports. He was in basketball, cross country, tennis, soccer and track, earning the most improved award and MVP.
Maddocks also was a class officer and a member of student council each year. He was active in Key Club, Foreign Language Club, Computer Club, Firelands Challenge and FCCLA.
He was chosen as Boys' State representative his junior year and homecoming king as a senior. Maddocks served as president of SHADOW, an environmental group that distributes bins and then sorts and ships out paper for recycling.
Emily Cannon, fourth in her class, is the daughter of Shelli McGue and Cliff Cannon. The 18-year-old will attend Ohio State to major in pharmacy.
"I really enjoyed my last four years at Norwalk High School and I feel that the teachers there have really prepared me with the tools I need in college," she said. The teen said she is ready to tackle the challenges of a large university with the background she gained at NHS.
In high school, Cannon was active in volleyball, softball and basketball and was named an Ohio High School Athletic Association Scholar Athlete for three years. She also served as a class officer and on student council.
Cannon also participated in Teens for Christ, Foreign Language Club, Key Club, Students Against Drunk Driving and SHADOW. She was an aide, in choir and a musical. The teen also tutored Spanish-speaking children in younger grades for a year.
Andrew Benson, 18, the son of Richard and Tracy Stang and Michael Benson, will head to Kettering University in Michigan to major in electrical engineering.
Benson was chosen to represent NHS at Boys' State his junior year. He was a four-year member and two-year letterman for the school tennis team.
He was also a four-year member of band, serving as both section leader and vice-president, and in the orchestra, pep band and wind ensemble. Other activities for Benson were the Foreign Language Club and Key Club.
As these five students demonstrate, the 2007 graduates of Norwalk High School will take their many talents developed with the help of both the school system and the community to venture out into a bigger world.