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James Buchanan High School graduates 211

June 10, 2006|by RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Correspondent

MERCERSBURG, PA.

Friday's early evening sun fell on the faces of 211 squinting seniors in green and white caps and gowns in the grass at James Buchanan High School's Rocket Stadium as 3,000 of their family members and friends sat before them in the shade of the stands.

Sitting among the seniors was Roger Yeager Jr., or R.J., as his family calls the newly minted James Buchanan alumnus.

"He's a cavalry scout in the (Pennsylvania) National Guard," said R.J.'s father, Roger Sr., himself a 1988 James Buchanan graduate..

After that, R.J. hopes to study criminal justice at Shippensburg (Pa.) University. He wants to become a Pennsylvania state trooper, unless the military wants him more, his father said.

"We don't know if he'll be sent to Iraq," his father said.

Ronald and Christine Lopez of Mercersburg waited for their son, John, to graduate. The family is moving to Colorado because of Ronald Lopez's job transfer.

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John Lopez is enrolled at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, a move that allows him to enjoy his favorite pastime - snowboarding, his mother said.

The class of 2006 earned $128,000 in scholarships, awards and deferred tuition, Principal Rodney Benedick said.

Benedick praised the class for being "a thoughtful, extremely responsible, compassionate group with a great sense of humor. It was a great honor to watch you grow from freshman to senior."

Valedictorian Sarah McDowell, who is headed to the Air Force Academy, told her fellow graduates that commencement is a turning point, a time to move forward and make a difference, as they head into careers as physicians, teachers, engineers, military leaders, writers, police officers and farmers.

"Always remember that determination and hard work will take you far," McDowell said.

"Part of where you're going depends on where you're coming from," said Salutatorian Elizabeth McLaughlin. No matter how far the graduates run or what they accomplish, this "little town of Mercersburg will always follow you," she said. "It will give you perspective in the real world."

In her speech, class President Tiffany Hunsberger spoke of her many classmates who "left your footprints on my heart. We went from immature freshmen to responsible adults."

Hunsberger also remembered and thanked the graduates' parents, who watched them walk to the school bus that first day of kindergarten to Friday night, when they watched them walk to get their diplomas.

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