By SEAN BARRON
Shavai D. Owens proudly walked across the stage to receive her diploma — even though just four short months ago, it appeared she might never walk again.
“I’m doing a lot better; I’m really excited about today,” Owens said before becoming one of 368 graduates to take home diplomas during Sunday’s Boardman High School Class of 2011 commencement ceremony.
Exactly four months ago, Owens, 18, was in critical condition fighting for her life after having been shot in the head during a Feb. 6 shooting at an Indiana Avenue residence near Youngstown State University.
Jamail Johnson, 25, a YSU senior and fraternity member, was killed in the shooting. Eleven others, including Owens, were wounded.
On Sunday, however, Owens exhibited few signs of her ordeal. She was in her cream-colored cap and gown and dark high-heeled shoes, with little more than the usual nervousness many students display just before graduation.
This summer, Owens, who had an eye socket replaced last month, will be looking forward to attending YSU, where she plans to declare a double major in pre-law and psychology. A long-term goal is to become a criminal psychiatrist, she said.
“My mom took psychology and I saw how that panned out [for her], and I liked it,” Owens continued, adding that she wants to work with victims of child abuse and other major crimes.
Owens said she feels too many young people feel invincible and advised them to always be aware of their surroundings and realize bad things can happen to anyone at anytime.
“I just want to thank everyone for their prayers and Boardman High School for working with her,” said Joyce Owens, Shavai’s guardian.
For a while, Shavai Owens was able to attend school only once a week, Joyce Owens recalled. As a result, many teachers devoted their planning periods to tutor and provide one-on-one time for her, the elder Owens continued.
Shavai, who’s deaf in one ear and has undergone various cosmetic surgeries, has a long way to go but continues to make progress, Joyce Owens said, adding that both are grateful for the community’s support and prayers.
Also in attendance were Shavai Owens’ mother, Mia Ferguson, of Norfolk, Va., and several other family members and relatives.
Becoming an oncologist is a long-term goal for Thomas D. Crew, who’s gearing up for The Ohio State University this fall to be a pre-med major, with a minor in music.
Crew, who works part time at Tinsletown USA in Boardman, said he’s sad to leave Boardman High, yet excited to graduate with honors.
Crew, who’s also a classically-trained tenor, said his fondest high-school memories likely will be his experiences playing cello with the school orchestra.
“Music is important to me, and I enjoyed experiencing sitting down with people who enjoy music as much as I do,” he added.
The main speaker of Boardman’s 93rd commencement ceremony was Superintendent Frank Lazzeri, who told the students that keys to their success will be supplementing their academic achievements, volunteerism and other endeavors with energy, enthusiasm and excitement.
The graduates’ accomplishments after high school could include being leaders in advancing green technologies and working toward achieving world peace, for example, so they should set high goals yet not be afraid to make changes, Lazzeri advised. In addition, they should follow their dreams but take time to enjoy life, he said.
Additional remarks were made by Timothy L. Saxton, principal; Devoun Fletcher, senior-class president; and Luis A. Salomon R., president of student council.