BELPRE-Sixty-five members of the Class of 2013 were presented their diplomas before a capacity crowd of family and friends in the Belpre High School gymnasium Sunday afternoon.
"We finally made it!" class valedictorian Colton Parsons told fellow classmates during his commencement address.
"I have one important message," he added. "I have absolute faith in your ability to succeed at whatever you decide to do, but remember to enjoy life."
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Belpre High School graduate Elizabeth Whiting gets a hug from cousin Daniel Law following commencement exercises Sunday afternoon.
Salutatorian Jacob Logue agreed.
"Get a dream and don't give up until you reach it," he challenged. "What will you create to make the world awesome? Nothing, if you just sit there. It's everyone's duty to do something that will make the world dance."
Sunday's commencement would be a bittersweet event for many of the grads, Logue said as he waited with the others before filing into the gym for the ceremonies.
Belpre High Class of 2013
A total of 65 Belpre High School seniors received their diplomas during the 2013 commencement Sunday.
Twelve members of the Class of 2013 have earned academic honors.
Valedictorian: Colton Parsons.
Salutatorian: Jacob Logue.
Keynote speaker was teacher Zach Gibbons.
"It has to happen," he said. "But we all know each other on a first-name basis-we've been together for nearly 13 years. It's exciting, but also a bit scary."
Logue is headed for Ohio University where he'll major in mechanical engineering this fall.
Fellow classmate Sarah Walker, who has already earned an associate degree in liberal arts at Washington State Community College while still in high school, said she'll be going to West Liberty College in West Virginia to study dental hygiene.
"The fact that we're leaving high school hasn't really hit me yet," she said. "But I'm sure it will hit me when I leave for college in August."
Belpre grad Elizabeth Whiting got a big hug from her cousin, Daniel Law, following Sunday's commencement.
Whiting will attend Washington State Community College this fall, then transfer to the Columbus College of Art and Design.
"But this is an emotional time for us-and it hasn't quite set in yet," she said. "We're all very close in this class."
Teacher Zach Gibbons echoed that sentiment during his keynote speech Sunday.
"I say this with sincerity-I've taught here for six years now, and you are the closest class I've ever seen," he said.
Gibbons said the class may call him "teacher," but "as you have learned from me, I have also learned from you."
He urged the grads to "be who you want to be, choose what you want to do, and do it well."
"Ground yourself in this place, and draw from the strength of community," Gibbons added. "Now go out and do good work-and greet the world with a smile."