NEW MANCHESTER - Encouraged to persevere and learn from failure, the 131 graduating seniors of Oak Glen High School left Monday's commencement with the one sure symbol of their success - diplomas conferring their status as the class of 2014.
Retiring Oak Glen Principal Barbara Logue told the assembled graduates in the school's gymnasium not to run from failure but to embrace it as a powerful motivator.
"Failure is good," she said. "It humbles us, it challenges us ... and it validates the lofty goals we set for ourselves."
SPECIAL?MOMENT — Members of the Oak Glen High Class of 2014 enter the school gymnasium Monday during commencement exercises. There were 131 students in the class. -- Stephen Huba
Logue, who is retiring later this month after 12 years at Oak Glen and 45 years with Hancock County Schools, said the graduates should rise up every time they fall.
And she exhorted, "Take a look around and say 'thank you' to your parents, your teachers, your friends. Each of you would not be here without the help of so many others."
Those "others" filled the Oak Glen High gymnasium almost to capacity Monday night for the 51st annual commencement exercises, watching the graduating seniors as they walked to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" wearing Columbia blue caps and gowns.
Logue recognized the seven students who had achieved the highest honor - a 4.0 GPA or higher - and praised all the students for earning more than $500,000 in scholarships, grants and awards.
Superintendent Suzan Smith officially accepted the class, while the school board members presented the diplomas.
Senior track star Kelsey Chambers, 17, of New Cumberland, reflected on her four years at Oak Glen prior to going forward to receive her diploma.
She said civics teacher Adam Howell, also the girls' track and cross country coach, "definitely got me through my high school career. He always helped me when I needed help."
Chambers plans to study education at Wheeling Jesuit University on a track scholarship.
Maddy Hill, 17, of Chester, praised teacher Paul Quattrone and his human anatomy class. "I feel like he prepared me for college," she said. "He was always there to help out."
Hill plans to study pharmacy at West Virginia University.
Chris Bailey, 18, of Chester, said he had science teacher Nichole Harvey in three out of his four years at Oak Glen - for physical science, biology and advanced placement biology.
"My freshman year was also her first year here teaching," he said, "so she really bonded with our class. We had a good relationship."
Bailey said Harvey treated the students as equals. "She's good at keeping your friendship, while being a teacher at the same time," he said.
Bailey plans to study chemical engineering at WVU.
Seth Cheuvront, 18, of Newell, said business teacher Sheila Robinson was critical to his success. He had her for all four years and credits her for helping him earn completer certificates in administrative support and accounting.
"She just knows what she's doing," he said.
Cheuvront plans to study information technology at the online Kaplan University.