Katie Ellington/News Salutatorian Cassidy Gebhardt encourages students to pursue their passions during the East Knox Class of 2019’s graduation ceremony.
Katie Ellington/News Students transfer their tassels at the end of the 2019 East Knox High School graduation. From left, are Coleton Bruch, Daryanne Breighner, Alexis Bostick and Mia Boggs.

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MOUNT VERNON — In spite of a last-minute location change, friends and family of the class of 2019 celebrated East Knox High School graduates as planned Sunday afternoon.

High school principal Alan Keesee opened with a joke as he reflected on the last few years.

“Well guys, it’s been a gas,” he said, referencing the gas leak in Howard that led administrators to close up the high school building and move the ceremony to RR Hodges Chapel at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

Keesee went on to thank the graduates for the example they set for future generations of Bulldogs.

“This senior class has brought back and reestablished an East Knox standard in creative arts, athletics and academics that’s been missing for a while,” said Keesee. “Thank you.”

In his brief address, district superintendent Steve Larcomb warned students that challenging times would come and encouraged them to lean on their family, friends and faith.

“When you think life’s going well, be prepared because at any time you’ll get a wrench thrown at you. And sometimes it’s pretty big,” said Larcomb. “Rely on your parents, rely on each other, rely on your family, rely on your faith in God.”

He also recognized Jacob McCarty, who remained committed to school and extracurriculars despite a cancer diagnosis his junior year.

“Through all the treatments, everything he’s been through…he had perfect attendance this year,” said Larcomb.

“I hope your years ahead are filled with love, peace and joy. And I hope you return and pay forward that same love, peace and joy that you experienced in your lives,” he concluded. “Most of all, I wish you good luck and godspeed.”
High school social studies teacher Chip Pozderac told students to “go change the world, class, with your wit, your intelligence, your determination and most of all, your kindness.”

Valedictorian Edward Adam Tokasz told students to not fear the uncertainty of the future.

“Uncertainty and self-doubt is normal and okay,” said Tokasz. “But this uncertainty and doubt needs to be paired with self-discipline and perseverance. In order to succeed, you need to figure out what success means to you and then you need to put in the work to achieve your goals.”

Tokasz thanked the teachers who really cared about their classes, his instructors and friends at Central Ohio Technical College and his family.

In addition to earning his high school diploma, Tokasz recently graduated from COTC with an associate’s degree of science. He plans to study computer engineering and neuroscience at Wright State University.

Before handing out diplomas, Keesee acknowledged Alexis Bostick, Sydney Buckingham, Brandon Carpenter, Cassidy Gebhardt, Mya Gonsalves, Mason McCauley, Madison Rine and Tokasz for graduating in the top ten percent of the class. Students’ additional academic achievements, including scholarships and honor cords, were read aloud as they walked across the stage.

Class President Tyler DeLucia and vice president Morgan Pilotti led the class in the ceremonial transfer of the tassel.

Salutatorian Cassidy Gebhardt acknowledged the challenges ahead and urged students to hold on to their passions.

“Congratulations on getting through the easiest 13 years of your life,” she said. “We had some hard classes, we did not always getting along and we all know we stayed up way too late writing those papers. But contrary to popular belief, it did not kill us and here we sit today.”

She thanked her first grade teacher Keri Campbell, basketball coach Pat Forshey, Nicole Thompson, high school instructors Brian Frankenfield and Ryan Kirkman and her parents.

Gebhardt touched on the lessons she and her peers had learned through athletics.

“Winning seasons came for most of our sports, but the losses never left us. They left us humble,” she said.

Gebhardt will attend West Liberty University and double major in biology and chemistry. After college, she plans to attend veterinary school and specialize in exotic animal care so she can become a zoo veterinarian. She closed her address by urging her classmates to hold on to their passions and not settle for careers they didn’t enjoy.

“Let us leave high school with our passions and our dreams,” she said. “Let us leave high school and show the world that we will fight for the things we want and that no one can stop us.”

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Katie Ellington: 740-397-5333 or katie@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @kt_ellington