Valedictorian: ‘I wish you happy wandering’

By Bob Jackson


The remarks from three leaders of Liberty High School’s Class of 2011 during graduation ceremonies Sunday were as diverse as the classmates to whom they were delivered.

Class President DeVante Hudson challenged his classmates to dream big and live superior lives, while Valedictorian Dorie Chevlen humorously acknowledged that the graduates are basically clueless about life and about themselves. Sandwiched between them, Salutatorian Robert Diroll urged his classmates to not settle into a boring life of monotony.

“Stroll through today and rumble through tomorrow,” Diroll said. “Don’t become complacent.”

More than 140 young men and women, wearing gold and red caps and gowns, walked into Stambaugh Auditorium as high school students for the last time, and left as high school alumni.

“It’s kind of surreal,” said Shanese Napier, 17, shortly before the ceremony started. “It hasn’t really hit me yet that I’m going to be on my own in a couple months.”

Napier, who will study fashion merchandising and design at Kent State University, said she “bawled like a baby” when she watched the senior video at the end of the school year, realizing that it was the end of the road for her high school years.

She hopes to eventually move to Chicago or Los Angeles and work for a fashion magazine.

During her address, which was flecked with humor, Chevlen said being on their own is not something for which all high school graduates are prepared. Even though they are out of school, most teenagers know little or nothing about life, or even about themselves, she said.

“To be an adult is to be reliable, self-reliant and completely independent. We are none of those things,” she said, drawing laughter from her classmates. “Though we may be adults by law, in essence we are still children, and that’s OK.”

She said their ability to handle life and its circumstances will come as they grow older and live through challenges and experiences.

“At one point, all the world’s great people were once as young and clueless as we are today,” she said. “We may be wanderers, but that doesn’t mean we’re lost. I wish you happy wandering.”

Hudson said the graduates not only made it through high school, but “through an incubator process,” developing into young adults ready to make their way in the world.

“We are now at the point where the rubber must meet the road,” he said.

Nate Fader, 18, said his road will take him to Mount Union University in Alliance, where he will play baseball while studying in the pre-med program.

“It’s been a dream of mine to play [baseball] in college since I was about 12 years old,” he said, noting that he harbors no dreams of making it to the major leagues. Instead, he hopes to one day become a family physician.

For Fader, Sunday’s ceremonies brought about a paradox of emotions.

“I’m ready to move on to the next part of my life, but I’m not really ready to be done with high school yet,” he said, reflecting on his years at LHS. “It went by way too fast, but it’s about that time.”

Twin sisters Kamille and Kandace Coward, 18, will both attend the University of Akron, where Kamille will pursue a pre-law degree, and Kandance will study middle-childhood education, hoping to teach science and social studies.

It’s bittersweet, leaving all your friends behind,” Kandace said of graduation.

Kamille, who wants to go into sports law, said she will take with her memories of high school years filled with laughter.

Stephen Gaetano, 18, agreed that it will be difficult to leave behind the friendships forged during high school, but said he’s excited to make new friends and find new opportunities at the University of Akron, where he has been accepted into the nursing program.

He wants eventually to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, inspired by his uncle, who he said is the head of BelPark Anesthesiology in Youngstown.

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