Courage, Success, Perserverance

Published 10:51 am Monday, June 1, 2009

IRONTON — The deck of cards that makes up the game of life deals lots of hands, both winning and losing. How those hands are played depends on past experiences, knowledge and wisdom.

But with themes like “courage,” “success” and “perseverance” it is doubtful the 2009 graduating class Ironton High School will ever play any hand they are dealt poorly. Actually, the 93 graduates will probably be “champions” playing their cards in the game of life.

The class of 2009 began the next trip of their young lives at the school’s 141st commencement exercises in front of an energetic and proud crowd at Tanks Memorial Stadium Sunday night.

Wearing matching white caps and gowns for the women graduates and black caps and gowns for the men, the graduating seniors marched single file in two lines to a gathering of chairs that straddled the 50-yard line of the legendary field.

From the beginning, the themes listed above were evident. Ironton High School Principal Joseph Rowe set the tone early.

“Today is a day of celebrating the culmination of 12 years of hard work,” Rowe said to a three-quarter full Tank’s grandstand that echoed in applause for each of the graduates.

Board of Education members Tim Johnson and Robert Pleasant, Jr. together introduced the four seniors who graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.000 accumulative grade point average or higher. Each of them spoke to the different ways on how they were able to reach the goal of graduation though all had a very similar message.

Named Summa Cum Laude was Marissa Delong, Michael Kennedy, Nathan Kerns and Laura Stewart.

“I will remember the spontaneous and generally fun moments,” Marissa Delong said while addressing her classmates. Delong, who will be attending Marshall University while majoring in journalism concluded her speech a famous family antidote that is true today as it was when it was first quoted.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try it like your mother told you,” Delong said to the laughs of those in attendance. Delong picked up Adelaide Conley Scholarship and the Tiger Clan Award Sunday night.

Fellow graduate Michael Kennedy let the excitement show right away.

“We have finally made it,” the upcoming civil engineering major at Marshall University said.

Following an emotional tribute to his family for their support, Kennedy reminded his fellow classmate and everyone in the stadium the importance of “Tiger Pride” and how it encompassed all facets of his high school experience.

Kennedy was awarded the prestigious Elks scholarship and the Tiger Clan Award during the ceremony.

“I guess I thought I would be a junior forever,” a grinning Nathan Kerns said in his speech. The incoming Marshall University freshman and class president made it a point to also thank his friends who picked him and others up when they might have been down.

Kerns who will be majoring in accounting at the Huntington campus took home the Sherman Blagg-IEA Memorial Scholarship.

Rounding out the four honor graduate speeches was Laura Stewart whose speech was both emotional and encouraging.

“Tonight we celebrate not only an ending but a beginning,” Stewart said. “Have courage to move past our failures . . . encourage to have the courage.”

Like her three other honor graduates, Stewart will also be attending Marshall University and majoring in history. She picked both the Barbara L. Mittendorf Scholarship and the Dr. and Mrs. Barney Osborne scholarship on Sunday.

Actually, the Ironton High School class of 2009 has already been awarded more than $1.218 million in scholarships, according to figures Superintendent Dean Nance said following the introduction of scholarship award recipients.

In total, 11 members of the Ironton High School class of 2009 were named honor students. Besides Delong, Kennedy, Kerns and Stewart also named were Kayla Barr, Cinnamon Fletcher, Lisa Jackson, Brandie Lynch, Eric Stewart, Charles Barnett and Caleb Hammond.

Named to the National Honor Society were Delong, Kennedy, Kerns, Stewart, Barr, Fletcher, Jackson, Lynch, Dova Christian, Julia Henson, Jessica Brown, Emily Houston and Kayla Parker.

Nance presented the diplomas to the graduates who received a standing ovation when Kerns accepted the diplomas on behalf of his fellow classmates.

“I am very proud of the class of 2009. This class exhibits great leadership capabilities. They have sacrificed more than any graduating class by finishing their last two years of school in a different facility so that The Ironton High School could be rebuilt,” Nance said. “They handled this situation with grace and dignity and made the most of the situation. They have paid the price for future students. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

It was fitting that at the conclusion of the ceremony, the class of 2009 crossed each others path one last time when marching from their seats on the field to line up in front of the crowd.

With arms around each other the 93 future leaders along with dozens of alumni and undergraduates sang “Dear Old Ironton High” knowing that their game of life was to start in a matter of minutes.

So far the cards that have been dealt have the makings of an excellent hand.