Polytech High School's class of 2008 celebrated their graduation Thursday night by cheering each other on and quickly looking back before heading toward the future.
Benjamin Byler slid into the valedictorian slot just days before graduation by tenths of a point. It was a surprise to his family, from whom he kept the news until the Polytech High School graduation ceremony Thursday night.
Shortly after sharing that story, Byler joined his 202 classmates as they shared high fives and hugs in the gym. Then the whole crew lined up and finally marched into Dr. Jeff Adams Stadium for the last time as high school students.
Four students, including Byler, spoke to their peers about topics ranging from the real estate market to Dr. Seuss to God’s grace. Every speech, though, tied the topics into the changes graduates will be experiencing, and what Polytech offered them as students.
“Polytech has made us stronger, smarter, more competent and confident,” said Christopher Jones, who earned fourth highest honors in the class.
Third honoree Ashley Mears chose to simply read Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” while Salutatorian Hannah VanSant compared the graduates to a freshly baked cake. A lot has gone into the past 18 years, she said, and the timing had to be right for them to turn out well, but there is still the icing and decorations to make them complete, and that’s what the next step of their lives will be.
VanSant plans on becoming a missionary and a heart surgeon.
She reminded her peers that they have others’ lives, honors and mistakes to learn from. You don’t need to be a workaholic, she said, you just have to try to do your best.
“Read your Bible, pray every day and grow in grace and love,” she advised.
Valedictorian Byler thanked many including the teachers who ushered him into his future by seeing in him something he didn’t know existed. The student who entered Polytech with a below average knowledge of computers graduated with a master of technology diploma in computer engineering technology. He’ll be moving on Delaware Technical & Community College to study computer network engineering.
“It’s building on what I’ve already done here,” he said.
Before the ceremony, class president Jonathan Duerr said he has no doubt his peers, especially ones such as Byler and VanSant, will go on to do amazing things.
“They might end up being the next president, or the person who finds the cure for cancer,” he said. “We’re at the turning point of our lives, kind of the launching pad.”
As the sun set on the stadium, Principal Dr. Bruce Curry advised students to bank on attitude and effort, not the elements they have no control over. He asked them to take chances and promise to give of their hearts, and then closed his statements simply.
“Thank you. Have a wonderful life,” he said.
The outgoing class, antsy and pulling out cans of Silly String and beach balls from under their robes, chanted “0-8” shortly before changing over their tassels, making use of that Silly String and heading off the field.