James Buchanan graduates have 'endearing spirit'

June 08, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • James Buchanan High School Valedictorian Austin Keller looks skyward and thanks his sister, whose passing helped Keller realize the important things in life, during Friday's commencement at the school's Rocket Field.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — The Wagaman family was out in force Friday evening to see Hannah Wagaman — their daughter, sister and granddaughter — join 161 fellow James Buchanan High School graduates to receive diplomas under mostly clear skies.

In good weather, Buchanan High graduations are always held before the Rocket Field bleachers overflowing with hundreds of well-wishers.

“This year’s class is lighter than usual,” School Principal Rodney N. Benedick said. “Last year, there were 176 graduates.”

Each graduating class usually starts out with about 200 freshmen, but the number dwindles over their four years, Benedick said.

This year’s senior class received more than $214,000 in scholarships and other awards, he said. Many graduates are moving on to some of the country’s leading colleges and universities.

Benedick praised the Class of 2012 for the “cooperation and support they have shown each other.”

“The faculty and staff have generally enjoyed them,” he said.


“It’s a great class with a great work ethic,” said Brenda Ford, a school guidance counselor. “They showed a lot of potential, and they had an endearing spirit.”

The class had to go through their high school years dealing with the inconvenience of the school’s ongoing $17 million major renovation project. It was completed this year.

Austin Keller’s 4.29 grade-point-average over the four years earned him the right to be named valedictorian.

“Don’t go it alone,” he urged his fellow classmates. “Surround yourself with people who can help you to lead a positive and productive life. Discover your own identity, and once you find it, use your gift in a positive and productive manner.”

Friday was the last commencement for Rebecca Erb who has served as superintendent of schools for the last six years. She is retiring in March.

She told the graduates to use the skills they “derived from the rich culture you received here in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania. Let what you’ve learned work for you as you go about your lives.”

Angelia Wagaman, her husband, Scott, daughter, Haley, a Buchanan junior, twins, Jacob and Jacquelyn, 11, and grandfather, Richard Billig, were in the front row of the bleachers as Hannah stepped up to receive her diploma.

“Haley graduates in two years, and the twins in 2019,” Angelia said. “I’ll be camped out here for a long time."

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