63 graduate from McConnellsburg High School

June 03, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - The kids knew it was time to start lining up for the processional when Nancy Shearer began to pass the waste basket under their chins demanding that they spit out their chewing gum.

Sixty-three seniors formed two lines behind the doors of the McConnellsburg High School auditorium Thursday night waiting for the signal to begin their walk to the stage.

The girls wore white; the boys wore blue.

In their hour on the stage, they were going to hear words of encouragement from Elizabeth M. Shehan, the class valedictorian; Sarah Adrienne Behe, the salutatorian; and Hilary Lea DeShong and Brittany Lynn Buterbaugh, third and fourth in academic rank.


Julia M. Cigola, superintendent of the Central Fulton School District, told the seniors that graduation is a time to look back and remember an important time.

Cigola said high school graduation is also a time for parents to remember putting their child on the bus for the first day of school and wonder where all the years went.

"We found friendships among our differences," Behe told her fellow seniors. "We're all young. We have our own lives to live and our own dreams."

Dennis G. Richards, president of the Central Fulton School Board, addressed the graduates as the main speaker for the 11th time. He's been on the board for 20 years.

A 1964 graduate of McConnellsburg High School, Richards told the seniors that this was their time to shine.

"Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember that you will forever be the McConnellsburg High School Class of 2005. You have the world in the palm of your hand right now. Go and seize it," Richards said.

Marissa Brightman, 18, plans to "seize it" by enrolling at Shippensburg University to study early childhood development.

"I love kids and this is the best way to give back to my community," she said.

Shawn Hoffman, 19, wants to get ahead, but he's not sure how to do it.

"I plan on going to Allegheny College in Cumberland to study criminal justice or culinary arts," he said.

But first, he said, he might take a year off "to work construction."

Jackie Hahn was among the parents seeing their children get a diploma.

Her daughter, Molly Berkstresser, is also headed to Allegheny College.

"She's going to be a massage therapist. I'm very proud of her," said Hahn, who graduated from McConnellsburg High in 1982.

Matthew Hill, 18, plans to study sports administration at Lock Haven (Pa.) University.

He said he likes it that McConnellsburg is a small school.

"I loved it here," he said. "The teachers are great and everybody knows everybody."

Shearer, before she went on her anti-gum campaign, was in the gym helping the seniors adjust their gowns and pin on corsage.,

"I know them all. I see them coming in tardy and I go to the sporting events," she said. "Most of them are just like my own."

Before the commencement began, Shehan said she and her classmates developed close personal relationships among themselves and their teachers, "because it's the only people you see every day."

She's off to Dickinson College to study language.

Greg and Sharon Pilkerton were seeing their last child, Matt, graduate. He'll begin pre-med studies this fall to prepare for a career as a dentist.

Lynn Henry teaches Advanced Placement English and Shakespeare. Her classes "are very small. I get to know them very well," she said.

Henry said more than half of the graduates plan to go on to some kind of higher education.

"It's hard for some, especially those who are not so well to do," she said.

McConnellsburg principal John A. Heuston was going through his own graduation of sorts Thursday - to the ranks of the retired after six years at the helm.

He'll stay in McConnellsburg, "the community I love," he said.

"The bonds and relationships I formed here will be the hardest thing to leave," he said.

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