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WHS graduates 181 in 131st commencement ceremony

The Worthington High School Class of 2018 celebrates Friday night during commencement exercises in the WHS gym. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)1 / 2
The Worthington High School Class of 2018 celebrates Friday night during commencement exercises in the WHS gym. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — In largely dignified fashion, Worthington High School (WHS) and District 518 administrators bid farewell to 181 members of the Class of 2018, sending the students onward to the next chapters of their lives.

“Graduates, you have a wonderful opportunity to change the world,” intoned Superintendent John Landgaard.

“All of you can make a difference in this world, and tonight is your first step.”

WHS Principal Josh Noble, looking out on the black gown-clad seniors draped in red stoles and sporting a sea of dark mortarboards, was equally direct.

“I truly wish that people everywhere could see how you have chosen to collaborate and lift each other up,” said Noble.

“It could be life-changing for them to see that, for this group of kids, it was all about everybody doing well.”

Student speakers — Bailey Kruse and class president Theodora Oputa — shared similarly positive messages.

“This is the last paragraph of our high school chapter,” said Kruse. “None of us was able to write this book on our own; everyone in this gym helped us in some way.

“We have finished another chapter, but we can’t forget this one.”

Said Oputa, “I would just like to say that it has been a great four years with each and every one of you, and I hope that you go into this world with optimism — and I wish everyone a successful future.”

The ceremony kicked off with a rousing performance of “All Glory, Laud and Honor,” played by the underclassmen of the Trojan Band with Jon Loy’s direction.

As the seniors proudly processed to their places, with 11 rounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” accompanying them, many parents captured the moment on camera and iPhone.

Class of 2018 members of the Worthington Concert Choir delivered a spritely a cappella version of the National Anthem, and later sang the poignant “Time of Your Life,” led by conductor Kerry Johnson.

WHS science teacher Tucker Besel was selected as the featured commencement speaker, and the lively young instructor did not disappoint.

Likening the graduates’ forthcoming journeys to that of Frodo’s in “The Lord of the Rings,” Besel urged them to move forward with confidence.

“One does not simply walk into Mordor,” Besel said, quoting the character Boromir.  “RUN into your Mordor, run headlong into your unknown adventures.

“Hesitation will do you no good, so push forward with excitement and vigor.”

Besel advised the assembled seniors to imagine being Frodo and to consider what they had in common with him.

“Hey, it’s dangerous out there, and the fate of the world depends on your success,” said Besel.

“You don’t know what you’ll find, but you are embarking on a quest filled with peril, excitement and unknowns.

“Rely on the wise old wizards in your lives so they can help you on your journey.”

Besel also supplied humor with a sampling of his famous puns, using character props to amuse the audience and honor the Class of 2018.

Hence, “Carol the Cow” said, “Herd you were graduating,” William the Whale offered, “Whale done, graduates,” and a graduated cylinder emerged, topped with a mortarboard.

“Soon both you and this cylinder will be graduated,” joked Besel.

The 31 students achieving highest academic honors (GPAs of 3.75-4.0) were designated with gold cords, while 20 students accomplishing honors (GPAs of 3.5-3.749) were distinguished with white cords.

Additionally, members of the National Honor Society wore white stoles for the first time this year, as the Worthington Elks Lodge gifted them to the group earlier in the spring.

The 11 WHS senior class advisors announced each of the graduates, who were presented with their diplomas by school board members Lori Dudley, Steve Schnieder, Linden Olson, Joel Lorenz, Brad Shaffer and Scott Rosenberg.

Rosenberg had the pleasure of handing his daughter, Ashlyn, her diploma, while Assistant Principal Hastings was close at hand to see his daughter, Taylor, cross the stage.

“It’s been awesome,” said Hastings of watching his daughter grow through the years.

Voicing the thoughts of other parents, Hastings added, “But now she’s ready to move on, and ISD 518 has given her a great education.

“She has her wings and is ready to fly.”

Such sentiments no doubt prevailed among the pleased families in the crowd, but the ceremony didn’t end without a few more humorous moments.

Oscar Martinez, named as the class clown at last week’s academic recognition event, sported distinctive footwear (white botas), and upon receiving his diploma, unzipped his robe to display a large “professional wrestling” championship belt.

With class flowers (white spider mums) and diplomas in hand, the seniors appeared ready to celebrate — and so they did at the ceremony’s conclusion, with colored confetti and a few air horns breaking the decorous atmosphere and sending them off in style.

As student speaker Kruse summarized, “We are the Class of 2018, and I hope you are all happy with the chapters we have helped each other write.

“Thank you for your part in mine.”