By Tim Yovich
Life — like reality television judges — can be brutal, the superintendent says.
WARREN — The Class of 2008 is the last class to graduate from old Warren G. Harding High School.
After graduating more than 80 classes, the school is being demolished. The new Harding is being constructed adjacent to the old building and will open in the fall.
“We become legendary,” class president Makia Brown told the other 296 graduates and their family and friends Tuesday night at W.D. Packard Music Hall.
Brown expressed sadness at the loss of their school, but she urged her classmates to look beyond the aged structure.
“We can do anything. It all starts here and it all starts now.
“Never settle for less than you deserve; don’t stop trying out of fear of failure,” Brown said.
In a break from tradition during commencement, class valedictorian Maureen Sweet and Kristin Placer, salutatorian, synchronized their addresses into one presentation.
It’s taken hard work to get to this point in their lives, they said, and although the future is unknown, they provided some suggestions for success: Don’t procrastinate, manage time, always be prepared, take advantage of all opportunities, don’t allow anything to slip away, be mindful of friendships and relationships, and realize that all good things must come to an end.
Although this is the last class to graduate from the old Harding, “make sure we are the greatest one,” Sweet and Placer told their classmates.
Superintendent Kathryn Hellweg and Robert Faulkner Sr., board president, offered their observations.
“This is the future — hopefully the future of the city of Warren,” Hellweg commented.
She likened the graduates’ futures to reality television.
“Reality is played out every day of life. The judges can be brutal, just as in life,” Hellweg said, and she urged them to surround themselves with supportive family and friends.
“You are our future. The real world is yours,” she added.
Faulkner said, “I know it’s sometimes difficult to say goodbye to the past. Life brings us tears, smiles and memories. Tears dry, smiles fade, but memories last forever.”
Some graduates know what their immediate futures hold for them, while others aren’t so sure.
Marcina Sims, 17, will be moving this week from Warren to Kent State University to study accounting.
While waiting for commencement to start, Sims, an A and B student, said studying came easy to her. Nonetheless, she looks forward to moving away from home. “I can’t wait,” she said with a broad smile.
Another 17-year-old, Michael Keith, said he eventually wants to attend college to study photography. He’s applied to two colleges, but hasn’t heard from them.
Although he was a B and C student, Keith noted that he would not have studied harder if he did it again.
“I wouldn’t want to change anything. I got the best education in the world,” Keith said, giving his teachers the credit for taking an interest in him.
And the parents had mixed emotions watching their sons and daughters graduate.
“I’m nervous, happy and sad,” Irene Culetsu said of her son, Dino. “He’s not going to be little anymore.”
A Niles teacher, Culetsu pointed out that her son received a good education at Harding. He will be attending Youngstown State University to study physical therapy.
Clayton Ware’s 18-year-old daughter, Elena Ware, will be off to Ohio State University to prepare for a nursing career. She’s an A student.
Ware said he is proud of his daughter, his first child to graduate from high school.
“It’s school first and then play,” he said in calling attention to his daughter’s academic achievements.