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Alex Leong walked up to a lectern at the Stranahan Theater Sunday with gold cords hanging at his sides and a medal around his neck as the Perrysburg High School valedictorian and member of the National Honor Society with summa cum laude honors.
“If I had a nickel for everyone that said high school is the best time of your life I’d be able to pay for my college tuition,” he said. “But I hope we focus on making each day better. Study abroad, learn a new language. I got so caught up with homework and grades at times I forgot to live.”
He was one of three student speakers representing the 346 graduates of the Class of 2014 during the school’s 149th commencement. While speeches delivered by several students and by Superintendent Tom Hosler drew some laughs, the ceremony turned serious as graduates walked across the stage.
Principal Michael Short had emphasized all parents should be able to hear their child’s name announced, and the audience was told there was to be no applause as students received their diplomas.
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There was a loud cheer, however, when the students were introduced as the 2014 graduating class.
Student speakers thanked faculty, administration, parents — and Class President Connor Leupp took time to take a “selfie” on his phone during the speech.
“I’d like to thank every teacher who woke us up in class, and cafeteria staff for making sure everyone was fed,” Mr. Leong said. “Even though you took away our cookies — thanks Obama.”
While there were some jokes, it was a special day for the students on stage and proud parents taking photos in the crowd.
“This is a very hard graduation because he is the youngest,” said Susan Caywood, mother of state champion wrestler Rocco Caywood. “We couldn’t be prouder of him.”
She said the ceremony made her think back to when he was learning to wrestle at 5 years old. “This is just the icing on the cake.”
The class motto borrowed Albert Einstein’s quote “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
The Perrysburg High School ensemble performed as the students entered.
“We are lucky to have educators in Perrysburg that care more about the students than the paycheck,” Mr. Leupp said.