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Next Step: St. Joseph graduates celebrate

Jerry Wheeler brought along a little moral support for his visit Friday to St. Joseph Catholic Church and who could blame him?

Wheeler’s daughter, Ashley Gannon, was about to enter church as a St. Joseph High School senior and leave a full-fledged adult with a diploma in her hand.

“She’s growing up on me,” he said, shaking his head. His uncle, Ollie Barker, from Morehead, Ky., and Barker’s friend, Fran Coleman, of Olive Hill, Ky., came with Dad to the St. Joseph graduation.

Chemistry teacher Joan Simon described this year’s graduating class as hard working.

“They’re a good bunch of kids, they really are. They’re involved in a lot of things, athletics, quiz bowl. I’m going to miss them,” Simon said.

Simon said the Class of 2009, with its 19 members, have rather diverse interests and some are ready to pursue unusual careers, everything from culinary school (Catherine Redden) to DNA research (Julia Haymond).

St. Joseph Administrator Chris Monte pointed out one member of the class will leave with more than just a diploma: Exchange student Ivana Setnika of Slovakia will leave with, hopefully, a better understanding of life in the United States.

“We’ve had exchange students before but never a senior,” Monte said.

As they waited for the commencement exercises to begin, some of the graduates professed to be a little nervous. After all, they were about to trade in the small, family atmosphere of St. Joe for college life.

“I’m kind of happy but at the same time I don’t want to leave,” Chad Harvey said. “I got a great education and the people you meet and see everyday are the best there is.”

Harvey will study at the University of Cincinnati and plans to be a pharmacist.

If the kids were both nervous and excited, so were their family members.

Iola Green of Cincinnati, and Kim Walters, of Missouri, came to see their nephew, John Boykin, get his diploma.

Green said she’s had a close bond with Boykin since he was a baby and she had to come to see him graduate.

“He’s really special,” she said.

Boykin dutifully stood for a few family photos outside the church before the ceremony and said he was both excited and anxious.

“I will miss the kind of tight-knit feeling of community around here, I guess,” he said. He will study psychology at Marshall and plans to be both a psychiatrist and a writer.

This year’s class boasted three valedictorians: Joseph Basedow, Caleb Blackburn and Kathleen Schwab.