Western Reserve Academy sends off graduating class of 2014

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Hudson -- Western Reserve Academy's Class of 2014 received their diplomas on May 25 along a sun-drenched Brick Row.

The class, which is now the newest members of the school's global alumni family, gained acceptances at 186 different colleges and universities and will attend schools ranging from Bates, to Cornell, Duke, George Washington, Johns Hopkins and the College of William and Mary.

The weekend began with the Senior Celebration May 24, where Michael Nichols '14 delivered the student address.

"I am not excellent, and if we had Senior Celebration for excellence alone, many of us would not be here," Nichols said. "We are here because each one of you has someone that you care about seated in these pews. You can't help having best friends, you can't help making memories that you hope will never fade. We can't help but find a little bit of family here at WRA. Be proud of who you are, be proud because you have made a difference in someone's life and you have made it that much richer.

"You are the person you are today and that is wonderful. We are here to celebrate who we were, who we are, and tomorrow we will celebrate who we will become."

Senior Celebration also included the awarding of several prizes, including: Rachel C. Snider Spirit Award, presented to Alex Fellows; Keir Vivienne Marticke '02 Memorial Prize, presented to Halle Sovich (Aurora); Turnbull Endeavor Award, presented to Alex Campana (Twinsburg); Todd C. Weaver '89 Prefect Award, presented to Morgan Lightcap and Michael Nichols; Anonymous History Writing Prizes, presented in American history to Lauren Kolar (Hudson) and Amy Squire, and in world history to Michael Nichols and Yuelin (Lily) Liu.

On graduation day, Jim Fraser and the Akron & District Pipe Band led seniors and faculty in a march from the Loomis Observatory to their seats in front of the Chapel, with family, alumni and friends in attendance.

Following opening remarks from Head of School Christopher Burner '80, senior Mitch Pollock (Aurora) delivered the student address.

"No matter where you go, people will identify WRA by you - its graduates," Pollock told his fellow seniors. "Remember all the hard work we put in and use that to fuel you in the future. Those late nights gave us confidence and taught us to feel not like teenagers, but like scholars. Also remember what makes this place so great - your friends. Don't ever forget them."

Following Pollock's speech, WRA's top prizes were awarded to seniors and faculty.

Dr. Menna Demessie '98, a senior research and policy analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and an adjunct professor of political science at the University of California Washington Center, delivered the Commencement address. She shared stories about the seniors and talked about the importance of loving the people in your life and giving back to the community.

"To the Class of 2014, your job is to know that the world is much bigger than you, but that you also have a hand in making the world go round," Demessie said. "Your call to action is to be intentional in your generosity; deliberate in your will to understand a complex, interdependent world; inviting to those who are different from you; resolute against the dehumanization of unfair treatment and violence against others; and to be outspoken when injustice occurs.

"You are a Reserve graduate and that means you lead with a heart of compassion and a mind of wisdom. It means you don't get caught up being the helper and overlooking those who have helped you. It means you are confident in your open-mindedness and deliberate in your civility, because even though you know a lot, there is so much to learn, and you see the humanity in people because you try, every day, to be the change you want to see in the world.

"My call to you is to travel the world, learn another language if you haven't already, have a conversation with the person you're sitting next to on the metro instead of texting a friend, enjoy the beauty of your journey, don't forget to prioritize happiness along the way, and create a new mainstream in the United States and across the globe, the kind of mainstream where success and service are one in the same."

Following Demessie's address, members of the graduating class lined up to receive their diplomas from Board of Trustees co-President Timothy Warner '69 and Assistant Head of School Kate Mueller, with legacies accompanied by more than 37 alumni relatives.

Head of School Burner closed the ceremony by thanking the senior class for being a "spirited and passionate class.

Each of you has made this a rewarding and enjoyable community and a memorable school year. I wish you continued success and happiness in the next step of your education and in all that follows."

Western Reserve Academy's newest graduates then proceeded to the flagpole, where they joined fellow alumni in the singing of the alma mater.

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