“If you're going to go, go hard,” exhorted Dr. Christopher Hart, the US Navy veteran-turned-energy executive who was commencement speaker Sunday for the Saline High School Class of 2014.
And just like that, 446 left their chairs in the shade and caps on the turf at Hornet Stadium and went off to do what's next.
For members of the graduating class, Sunday's ceremony was a little bittersweet. But mostly, the graduates were excited about beginning the next chapter of their lives.
“It's a little sad leaving here, the place where you met almost everyone you ever knew. But I'm happy. It's exciting, more than anything else,” said Michael Hendrickson, who is moving on to take pre-med courses and play baseball at the University of Michigan.
Alexa Ross, who will study kinesiology and run track and field at Miami of Ohio University, shared similar thoughts about graduation day.
“It's great. It's amazing,” Ross said, describing the day. “It's awesome to be done. But it's bittersweet at the same time, because there are a lot of people here I know I probably won't see again.”
Both Hendrickson and Ross feel well-prepared for the next chapter of their lives.
“I think (Saline Schools) has done a great job preparing me. The classes here are rigorous enough that I'm ready for college next year. But they were fun enough that I'm ready for a new challenge,” Ross said.
Hendrickson, too, said he felt ready for the next challenge.
“They do it right. Saline has been really good to me. I feel over-prepared for everything,” Hendrickson said. “It's been a phenomenal experience. I wouldn't have wanted to go anywhere else for high school.”
In his commencement ceremony address, senior class president Grant Vlahopoulos thanked all of the parents, on behalf of the Class of 2014.
“One thing will always be for sure. We love you with all our hearts, and we couldn't have done it without you,” Vlahapoulos said, before turning his attention to the teachers.
“Your knowledge has helped us succeed, not only in our studies, but in life as well,” Vlahopoulos said. “We are honored to be bless with one of the best, if not the best, teaching staffs and administrations in the state of Michigan.”
Vlahapoulos said he and his classmates were family who shared experiences in school, sports and clubs.
“We are who we are at this point because of what we've done for each other, not to each other,” he said. “No matter where we end up in this world, we first came together in this small town we call Saline. No matter where we go and what we accomplish in the future, it all started here. Saline will always be our home.”
To leave a legacy, the Class of 2014 is donating the remainder of its funds to purchase technology for the high school.
Principal Julie Helber said quality of work is the expectation, not exception at Saline High School.
“The class of 2014 has maintained that level of excellence. Their service and character are a tribute to their parents, families, school and community,” Helber said, before thanking the class for an exceptional year. “I am honored to have had the opportunity to be your principal for the last two years. The memories you have given me will be cherished for years to come.”
Helber shared several facts about Saline High School and the Class of 2014.
- Saline High School was ranked as one of America's top high schools.
- Saline's AP test pass rate is tops in Michigan.
- There are 10 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists and Finalists.
- There are 5 National Merit Commended Scholars.
- 116 students are graduating with Highest Honors (3.667 unweighted GPA or better). It would be 150 students if the district used a weighted GPA.
- The Class of 2014 received more than $95,000 from 72 local scholarships and 34 contributors.
- 73 percent of the graduates will attend a four-year college or university. 18 percent will attend a two year program. Others will attend skill trade schools, join the military or enter the workforce.
Class of 2014
President Grant Vlahopoulous
Vice-President Natalie Zimmerman
Secretary Madeline Nowicki
Treasurer Karina Becker
Homecoming Representatives: Laurel Budrick, Michael Hendrickson, Jacqueline Olson, Steven Rudnick, Jennifer Kise, Mehul Kulkarni and Seena Sauber
Float: “Chop ‘Em”
Queen: Ellen Hodges
Mr. Pretty Legs: Abraham Frey
Class Advisers: Beth Russow, Steve Sartori
Class Flower: Gerbera Daisy
Class song: “Best Day of My Life” by The American Authors and “I Lived” by OneRepublic
Begin difficult things while they are easy,
Do great things when they are small.
The difficult things of the world must once have been easy;
The great things must once have been small…
A thousand mile journey begins with one step. Lao Tse