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Hudson -- It can be a long journey from high school freshman to graduate.
But on May 28, for 387 Hudson High School seniors, the trip was as short as a few moments walk across the stage of E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall at the University of Akron.
Parents, family members, staffers and fellow students filled the hall and helped welcome the 129th graduating class as it took its first steps from the echoing halls of academia to the beginning path of adulthood.
The class was more than 20 members smaller than the Hudson High School Class of 2013.
Before the graduates began their final procession as students, Principal Brian Wilch delivered a few words to parents and guardians.
"These seniors have accomplished much, but they've done so in a most unassuming, conscientious and considerate manner which ranks this class as one of my personal favorites," Wilch said. "Of course, having a graduating son doesn't hurt. Lucas, it's not easy being the principal's kid--but you've achieved on your own and have made the most of your four years--well done. From this parent to those in the audience, it's not a secret that folks like me who work in our schools consider ourselves very fortunate to work together with such supportive and involved families in one of the premier school districts in the state of Ohio--including the just-released, number-one ranking in Northeast Ohio."
The proud principal also touted the "impressive statistics and accomplishments" of his students.
Class accomplishments included: 147 who wore gold tassels as members of the National Honor Society; 88 students who wore multi-colored cords in recognition of their respective honor societies; 197 seniors, or more than 1/2 of the class, who earned the State of Ohio Honors diploma; five students who earned the distinction of National Merit Finalist by finishing in the top one percent of the nation's graduates and 13 National Merit Scholar commended students who represented the top 3 1/2 percent of the 1.5 million test takers last year.
Wilch said 154 seniors graduated with honors according to the school's Cum Laude recognition system. The system, being used for the first time this year signified a final, cumulative grade point average of an A, or higher, according to Wilch. Twenty five students graduated Summa Cum Laude.
"That's no easy feat at a challenging high school like Hudson High School," Wilch added.
Connie Chen, the daughter of Richard and Shu Chih Chen was valedictorian, finishing first in the class with a 4.8438 grade point average and will attend the University of Pennsylvania.
Audrey Fetsko, the daughter of Robert and Lynne Fetsko was salutatorian, finishing second in the class with a 4.7623 grade point average and will attend The University of Notre Dame.
Student performances included: The Hudson High School Wind Symphony; a jazz number by Lucas Kadish and Andrew Lin; a harp performance by Cindy Qin;a solo by Lorenzo St. John; a poem by Heather Neifert and speeches by valedictorian Connie Chen and Class President Taylor Swanson Vigliotti.
Several members of the class are on their way to serve in the military, Wilch said.
Members of the military included: Michael Coleman, who was appointed to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis; Michael Rossi, who earned an ROTC scholarship to attend George Washington University; Robert Weitendorf, who enlisted in the Marines and Lorenzo St. John, who enlisted in the United States Army.
"Hudson High School is proud of your service commitments to our nation," Wilch added.
One senior, Julia Washko, graduated with fours years of perfect attendance, Wilch said.
"That's just shy of 710 school days without missing a day; and it would have been six more if Mr. Herman hadn't called so many snow days this year," Wilch quipped to the audience.
The class was awarded almost $4 million in scholarships.
"The 2014 graduates are a special group--many of whom I've gotten to know over the years through having a son in this class (Lucas)." Wilch said. "They'll be known for their scholarship, achievement in the arts, music and sports, and simply for being very nice young adults."
Wilch added some of the girls "did some impressive artwork decorating their mortarboards this year." Wilch sees the decoration as a growing trend, he said.
"Lastly, those who performed at graduation also deserve commendations; the sharing of musical talents are components of our commencement and make our ceremony stand out," Wilch added.
The class of 2014 was the first set of graduates for Phil Herman as superintendent.
"At graduation, Mr. Wilch shared that between the Service Learning class and National Honors Society, our seniors have volunteered over 16,000 hours of their time to provide community service," Herman said. "At the ceremony I told them, 'You, the class of 2014 have not only maintained the stellar reputation of the Hudson City Schools, you have raised the bar for the classes coming after you. While making your mark in the academic, athletic and artistic worlds, you also found time to give back to your community and to society. Many of you contributed countless hours helping others and, in so doing, built relationships and touched others' lives in a very meaningful and genuine way.'"
Herman said he was "very proud of the accomplishments of the Class of 2014."
"And I am honored to have had the chance to work with them this year," he added.