By Bob Jackson
Ben Cario and Zach Rounds each had lofty — but distinctly different — goals when they began their years at Girard High School.
For Cario, it was to finish at the top of his class. For Rounds, it was boot camp.
Mission accomplished on both fronts.
Cario, 18, and Rounds, 17, were among the 121 members of Girard High School’s graduating class who received their diplomas during commencement ceremonies Sunday afternoon in the high school’s packed gymnasium.
The boys wore black caps and gowns, while the girls wore red. They all sported black and red tassels that had a gold “13” dangling from them.
“That was my goal from the start,” Cario said of achieving valedictorian status. “I knew I wanted to do it, and I always worked toward it.”
He shared the honor with co-valedictorians Sam Horne and Gia Mancini.
“Ben and I have been friends since kindergarten,” said Horne, 18, noting that he and Cario always enjoyed a “friendly rivalry” in their bid for top honors. “We would always just push each other to do our best and kid each other about who was going to slip up first.”
Cario said graduation day was “almost surreal” as it brought finality to his high school career. He plans to spend the summer visiting with his friends before attending Ohio State University in the fall where he’ll study environmental engineering. He hopes to one day develop “green” technology and sustainable energy sources.
“I just think that’s an important issue that a lot of people overlook,” he said. “I want to do my part.”
As for Horne, he’s off to Oberlin College to major in environmental studies and ultimately wants to design and build infrastructure systems, such as irrigation systems.
“I want to do something to help give people their basic needs,” said Horne. “It’s the greatest way I could help the largest number of people.”
Mancini said she’s also going to attend OSU where she’ll study premedical neuroscience.
“I just think the brain is fascinating,” Mancini said, noting that her focus will be on neurological radiology.
She acknowledged that the nerves she felt Sunday were not necessarily over graduating, but because she had to give a speech.
“I’m terrible in front of people,” she said, laughing.
Unlike her fellow valedictorians, Mancini said being No. 1 was never a goal for her.
“It was in the back of my mind, but I just wanted to do my best and if [valedictorian] happened, then that would be great,” she said.
Rounds, who sported a T-shirt and green shorts under his graduation gown, said he was anxious to put graduation behind him and was looking forward to leaving in 24 days for Fort Benning, Ga., where he’ll start basic training for the Army.
“Ever since I was little, what I’ve wanted to do is be a soldier,” said Rounds. “I made it. I’m ready to conquer this world.”
He intends to become a part of the Army’s Special Forces.
Alyssa McClimans, 18, also has the military in her future, joining the Ohio National Guard.
“I wanted to do something to better myself and to challenge myself,” she said of her choice. “My dream college is Ohio State to study nursing, and I’ll end up there, eventually.”
McClimans said she got a summer job working as a lifeguard at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky.
“I started in kindergarten with most of the people who are graduating today,” she said. “I’m going to miss seeing them every day and walking the halls of Girard [High School].”
Alexis Hugel, 18, said she was “anxious” about graduation day, but it didn’t cause her to lose any sleep Saturday night. She hadn’t cried before the ceremony, but said, “It’ll kick in.”
Hugel said she will most likely attend Youngstown State University, although she hasn’t decided on a course of study.
“My family has been wanting me to be a lawyer because I’m good at arguing,” she said, laughing.
High school Principal William Ryser said Sunday’s ceremony was Girard High School’s 130th annual commencement exercise.