By Sean Barron
A large grin crosses Richard D. Henneman’s face when he recites the story of having seen a panda while visiting a Chicago zoo during a school band trip.
“We walked around the exhibit and saw the red panda. We fell in love with it,” said Henneman, whose chance encounter with the animal morphed into the panda’s appearing on T-shirts that were custom made for him and nine fellow band members, each of whom wore the shirts on designated days.
On Sunday, Henneman had his T-shirt on, though few people saw it because the gown portion of his graduation outfit was covering it.
One thing everyone did see, however, was Henneman’s being among 381 graduates who received diplomas during Sunday’s Boardman High School Class of 2013 commencement in the school gym.
“It’s been a 13-year process and I’m glad I made it through,” said Henneman, who carried a 3.6 grade-point average and plans to major in meteorology at Penn State University and work for the National Weather Service.
In the meantime, Henneman, who also was part of his school’s track and cross country teams, hopes to relax this summer, he said. He also plans to work part time at Henneman’s Garage Doors & Openers in Boardman, a business his father, Rick Henneman, owns.
A busy summer awaits Matthew S. Peyko before he enrolls at Ohio University this fall to study wildlife and conservation biology.
For starters, Peyko, who hopes to be a zoologist or a park ranger, intends to spend two weeks in July sightseeing in Budapest, Hungary, where he has relatives, and participate in a marathon race at Mohican State Park near Mansfield.
Peyko also ran through a few high-school memories and listed having reached the 19-minute mark in a cross-country event during his senior year as one of his proudest accomplishments.
Teraesha A. Rhodes doesn’t have a long track record of high school achievements, but her most-cherished moments include having spent time with her best friend, fellow grad Daphne N. Robinson.
Rhodes and her family moved to Boardman from Norristown, Pa., during her junior year mainly because her father, Terrence Rhodes, opened a barbershop in Struthers, she explained. Her goals include entering Youngstown State University’s four-year nursing program to become a registered nurse in a children’s hospital, Rhodes continued.
“I’m very proud of her for graduating and going to college,” said Rhodes’ aunt, Latoya Robinson of Boardman. “I wish her the best.”
Also extending best wishes to his graduating class was Daniel J. Belinky, student council president.
Belinky, who plans to major in business management at YSU, said keys to happiness and fulfillment lie in neither wealth nor prestige.
“As long as you’re happy with yourself, that’s all that really matters,” he said, adding, “It’s not about what happens [to you]; it’s how you perceive it.”
Similarly, the students have great potential to succeed on their terms, said Fletcher R. Dunham, senior-class president.
“Passion over greed will lead to much more enjoyable circumstances,” he added.
Age 18 is a benchmark for assuming adult responsibilities such as working toward financial security, making sound decisions and reaching beyond oneself, Principal Timothy L. Saxton told the grads.
The students must be extra circumspect about their actions partly because the ubiquity of social media can magnify poor choices and haunt them for years, he explained.
“What happens in Vegas rarely stays there,” Saxton said, advising the Class of 2013 to build a foundation on kindness, faith, self-control and the desire to serve others.
Making additional remarks was Superintendent Frank Lazzeri.