40 Mahoning County High grads turn the tassel

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Mahoning County High School graduated 40 students in a jubilant and emotional ceremony Tuesday morning.

It was the school’s 10th commencement in 11 years of operation and one of the school’s larger classes, said school Superintendent Jennifer Merritt. This year’s guest speakers were the Revs. Lewis Macklin and Kenneth Simon, the latter of whom urged outgoing students, “reach your potential.”

The Bryn Mawr Avenue school’s structure emphasizes credit recovery and drop-out prevention. This year’s 40 graduates saw the curriculum through while “overcoming obstacles, barriers, traumas — things that other kids in other high schools don’t have to deal with,” Merritt said.

To some in the Class of 2019, Tuesday wasn’t just their high school graduation, it was proof they can re-engage with the education system after dropping out; that they can cope with separation from an incarcerated parent; that they can move beyond delinquency.

After graduates tossed their personalized mortarboards to the ceiling, the gymnasium became a maelstrom of shrieking cheers, photos and smiles. County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick said they were celebrating because they “beat all odds.”

“Many of these students have been told, ‘You’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to be anything. You’re never going to graduate.’ They walk through the doors here thinking that,” she said. “This means more to them because they’ve had to work extra hard for it.”

Graduate Nathaniel Austin, the first to receive his diploma Tuesday, strutted up to the stage, savoring it.

“OK, ya’ll see me — I did that,” he beamed, echoed by a roaring crowd.

For Julian Hicks-Montgomery, class speaker, the next step will likely be Mahoning County Technical and Career Center and a trade program — maybe electrician or plumbing training.

“I feel great. I’m finally here, after 13 years of being in school, I’m finally done,” he said. “I’m so happy for my classmates. Go 2019! Go Mahoning County!”

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