Girard grads vow their strong relationships will endure

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A bend in the road of the lifelong friendship between Lauren E. Rich and Grace T. Swertfager was aptly demonstrated on their graduation caps, both of which also displayed popular cartoon characters.

“Honestly, she’s not a friend. She’s more like a sister; she’s my third sister,” Swertfager said about Rich, both of whom wore caps that read “So long, partner.”

The caption may have a ring of finality to it, but don’t make the mistake of taking it literally. Both students’ college and career paths will diverge – with Rich planning to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, to major in speech pathology and Swertfager choosing Youngstown State University to pursue a dual major of early-childhood and special education – but their relationship promises to remain strong, Swert-fager said.

For now, though, Swertfager and Rich are basking in sheer enjoyment for having joined 136 other graduates who received diplomas during Girard High School’s Class of 2019 commencement Sunday at the school, 1244 Shannon Road.

Their closeness to each other also can be viewed through the lens of Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody, two main characters in the “Toy Story” franchise that also were on Rich’s and Swertfager’s caps. The two fictional characters become close friends, Rich explained, adding that she and Swertfager adopted the 1999 Robert Goulet song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” which fits their relationship and is part of the “Toy Story 2” soundtrack.

As for Salvatore N. DiVencenzio’s college choice, his graduation cap leaves little to the imagination.

“I want to study exercise science [at Youngstown State University] and become a physical therapist,” said DiVencenzio, whose cap exclaims in large letters, “Y proud.”

Without hesitation, DiVencenzio, the Class of 2019’s vice president who’s also planning to major in business, said one of his proudest school moments will be having attended the Division IV state championship football game last December at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. Even though Girard lost to Cincinnati Wyoming 42-14, the experience was thrilling for DiVencenzio, who also played three seasons for his school’s football team and threw the shotput and discus for the track team.

Perhaps superseding those achievements for him was being part of a graduating class that felt more like a big extended family than a group of peers, DiVencenzio continued.

“I hope to spend as much time with these people as possible this summer … before people start leaving,” he said, adding that it was common for dozens of classmates to get together for social gatherings outside of school.

In their remarks, valedictorians Austin O’Hara, Alexis Owens, Angelica Park, Kathryn Sharples, Joshua Shepley, Kevin Sobnosky and Madeline Stears advised their fellow grads to walk tall and exude self-confidence, find those who will have their best interests at heart, rise above self-doubts, seek to improve themselves and relish good times, strive to find their purpose and aim for perfection while recognizing that mistakes are inevitable and perfection is illusory.

To stress what he sees as the importance of prioritizing love for others over attainment of material goods, Superintendent David M. Cappuzzello read aloud a portion of the last essay Steve Jobs wrote before the billionaire co-founder and chief executive officer of Apple Inc. died Oct. 5, 2011, in Palo Alto, Calif., from pancreatic cancer at age 56.

It reads in part, “Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well and cherish others. As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that a $300 or a $30 watch both tell the same time. You will realize that your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world.”

Making additional remarks was Principal William L. Ryser Jr., who praised the grads’ accomplishment and lauded them for joining those who are “part of a proud history of Girard High School.”

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