*This story first appeared in The Budget’s May 30, 2018, Local Edition.
By Beverly Keller
For the Hiland Class of 2018, graduation marked not only the end of many things but also the beginning.
For a large part of the class, it is time to get to work, while others head to college and a few go on to military or service careers with missions. However, for the district, the graduation also marked the end of careers in education for Hiland High School Principal Matt Johnson and Guidance Counselor Craig Hershberger.
“They have been pillars here for the past 25 years,” explained Superintendent Erik Beun while pointing out two flowering trees that were placed in the gym that will be planted on the grounds this week. “They have bloomed where they have been planted,” he said. “They have worked hard.”
For Salutatorian Arryn Schlabach, the day was bittersweet as it marked the final seconds the group spent together as a class. “Since we arrived in this building six years ago as little seventh graders, we have been together at least 31,104,000 seconds which is about 8,640 hours that adds up to 1,080 days,” she shared. “We have collectively taken hundreds of tests. We’ve experienced many thrills together. … Our teams have won 428 games total. … And Steven Beachy has sold, and I quote, ‘At least a decent amount of horses.’”
While she looked back over the past years with her classmates, she also looked forward and wished them all well. “Here and now, we are The Class of 2018,” she said. “We are all extremely blessed to live in a community that wants us to thrive and succeed.”
Derek Yoder, the Valedictorian, also shared thoughts with the crowd and his fellow classmates. “I can’t believe we are already here but it sure feels great to be here,” he said. “We found time to play our respective sports and hang out with our friends on the weekends and really make the best of it. We complained daily on how boring school was and how early we had to wake up, but I learned to be grateful for the last four years.”
He praised the teachers and administration for their impact on the class as a whole. Yoder also thanked his fellow classmates. “I will never forget any of you,” he said. “And I hope you will never forget me.”
Class President Jennifer Wood thanked her fellow classmates for the memories they created together at Hiland.
The capstone of the day was a musical performance by the senior ensemble titled “This Is Me” that was directed by Alexander Looney. An original poetry reading by Deanna Shetler that brought student life full circle from hall passes to a diploma also drew applause.