YSU spring grads pump up the pomp

COVID-19 marred their high school ceremonies

Correspondent photo / Sean Barron ... Several hundred students and professors in Youngstown State University’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fill Beeghly Center at the start of a spring commencement Saturday for that college. The university had six weekend ceremonies, one for each college.

YOUNGSTOWN — The bookends of graduations for Kennedy D. Page couldn’t be a sharper study in contrasts.

“There were no senior activities, so it was really hard, very isolating. During my graduation, I felt not very significant because all of us deeply wanted to walk across the stage,” Page, a 2020 Boardman High School graduate, said. “I didn’t feel special; I felt the moment was stolen from me.”

Page reflected on having been robbed of what should have been a defining, joyous and crowning moment in her young life because of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the stay-at-home edicts and social distancing recommendations that were in place. Her truncated day also included receiving her diploma alone on the football field, Page remembered.

Saturday, however, represented a vastly different story and set of emotions for her. That’s because Page got to be among the 252 Youngstown State University graduates in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to receive in person — and with full pomp and circumstance — her degree during one of the day’s three YSU spring commencements in Beeghly Center.

YSU hosted six such ceremonies, three Saturday and three Sunday, for each of the university’s six colleges. More than 1,500 graduates and undergraduates received degrees this semester, Becky Rose, YSU’s director of marketing and communications, noted.

Page, who graduated cum laude, was proud to have walked across the stage to take home a bachelor’s degree in biology, with a pre-med focus. She also will enter the beginning stages of attending medical school, but plans to take a year off to conduct research, likely in Columbus, regarding clinical child care for those who have cancer, as well as in the field of gynecology, she said.

“The four years flew by, especially after high school in 2020 when COVID hit,” Page added. “I’m excited about my future and passionate about medicine.”

Also having experienced a significant flip of the emotional script was Madison P. Wigley, who graduated in 2020 from New Wilmington High School in Pennsylvania amid the health crisis’ early days. On Saturday, she crossed the stage in a nearly filled Beeghly Center to take home a degree in electrical engineering.

A full-time job beginning next month with FirstEnergy awaits her, said Wigley, who graduated magna cum laude and was in YSU’s Sokolov Honors College.

Wearing a cap on which was inscribed “1st degree murdered,” along with a falling black chalk figure, was Ella E. Seuberling, who earned her bachelor’s degree in forensic biology.

“I felt like it was kind of a morbid major, so I placed something fun on my attire,” she said about the somewhat cryptic but good-humored sentiment.

If things go as planned for Seuberling, she may “murder” her second degree – this time, a master’s in a branch of psychology that she hopes will lead to a career in forensic psychology.

Seuberling’s ultimate goal is to counsel repeat offenders who are in the criminal-justice system, she added.

“I’ve always been interested in the psychological side of things. Part of me wanted to be a lawyer, so I decided to combine law and psychology to help people,” she said.

Seuberling’s four years at YSU were not focused solely on the macabre, though. She also relished playing on the soccer team. In addition, she intends to spend part of the summer working at the university’s Andrews Rec Center’s rock wall, she continued.

The College of STEM’s commencement speaker was Chris Allen, a 1992 YSU grad who earned a degree in telecommunications studies.

Allen, Vallourec USA’s North American director of talent management, advised the grads to build and foster genuine relationships with others as a key way to be successful in their careers.

In addition, he offered what he felt were three essential tenets for success.

“Work hard, be good and treat each other nice,” said Allen, who also serves as the Mahoning Valley Manufacturing Coalition’s board vice president.

Delivering the student address was Alexa Beyer of Dewitt, Michigan, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy.

Beyer said she has always held a curiosity for how things work, and that she originally came to YSU to play lacrosse. Nevertheless, she suffered two injuries, which placed her on a path to focus on a new passion.

“Change is not easy; it’s not recommended for growth, but required,” she added.

During her remarks, Beyer advised her fellow grads to not be afraid to ask questions and reminded them that life is short, so it’s vital to express love to those who are important to them. Also, YSU President Bill Johnson called the grads “beacons of hope.” He then honored the grads who have served in the military, along with those in the bleachers, by asking them to stand to be recognized, which they did to applause.

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