By AMANDA TONOLI
East High School’s Class of 2019 went “paws up” one last time during the Thursday night commencement ceremony at Stambaugh Auditorium.
“When you see pictures of bears in the wild, you see their paws up because they are communicating something,” explained Jeremy Batchelor, East High School principal. “This class has embraced that.”
Batchelor thanked the blue and gold class of 125 for believing in the mission throughout their journey.
“This class has been through a lot of change,” Batchelor said.
But this graduation is not the end all-be all, said Jackie Adair, board of education member.
“High school graduation is not the end, but just the beginning,” she said. “Learning is a life-long endeavor and it all begins with education.”
Salutatorian Ke’Shyra Saunders thanked her class — not for its accomplishments, but for the laughs, the cries and the friendship.
“It has been hard and I know we all wanted to give up. But we didn’t, and now look at us graduating,” she said through tears. “Without a doubt I will miss all of you here.”
Valedictorian Montazia Tolbert’s speech was about how the students, like diamonds, were made under pressure.
“Go into the world and shine like the diamond you were made to,” she urged.
The Youngstown Foundation’s Y-Star award of $6,000 was given to every graduate of East, Chaney and Youngstown Early College if they attend Youngstown State University or Eastern Gateway Community College, announced Jan Strasfeld of the Youngstown Foundation. This year the award was increased from the previous $3,000 to commemorate the foundation’s 100th anniversary.
Incoming school district CEO Justin Jennings surprised graduates, their families and school personnel when he announced that he would award two $500 scholarships to East High School graduates this year and every year thereafter. He did not specify who those scholarships were going to.
Students were emotional about graduating.
“I want to cry,” said graduate Terriona Flowers. “I’m glad I made it.”
Flowers is going to attend Eastern Gateway Community College in the fall for nursing. She plans to go to Youngstown State University thereafter.
Graduate Shauntavia Moore said she’s simply excited to be done with school.
Graduate Daiyaunna Brogdon said she was in disbelief that she made it this far.
“It went fast,” she said. “It came too fast and there ain’t no turning back now.”
Daiyaunna is going to attend college in Alabama to become a surgeon.
Family members stood outside Stambaugh Auditorium showing their pride as they waited for their graduates to come out.
“It was great and I’m very proud of D’Marcus Carr,” said Dejanais White, D’Marcus’s stepsister.
Both Shenita Bennett and Chico Williams stood anxiously awaiting their newly graduated son Xhariyon Williams.
“(I) love him very much and I am just very proud of him,” Chico Williams said.
“We are so very proud of everything and his accomplishments,” added Shenita Bennett.
EAST HIGH SCHOOL
Class of 2019
Number of graduates: 125
Class colors: Burgundy and gold
Class flower: White rose
Class motto: “Today is the tomorrow we dreamed about yesterday.”
Class song: “Congratulations” by Post Malone
Valedictorian: Montazia Tolbert
Salutatorian: Ke’Shyra Saunders