Career center seniors celebrate

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Students listen as guidance counselor Cynthia Schwendeman speaks during the 2019 Washington County Career Center year-end awards ceremony Tuesday at the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center on the Marietta College campus.

The crowd nearly filled the cavernous Dyson Baudo Recreation Center. Outside, on the bridge leading to the center’s east doors, more than 200 students of the Washington County Career Center talked, laughed and stared at the ground, waiting to make their entrance.

The 47th annual senior awards ceremony for the center, held Tuesday morning, presented credentials to move on in their lives for 213 seniors from six school districts in the county.

A group of four students, all from the center’s sports medicine and exercise science program, all were preparing to head off in different directions.

Anna Stalnaker from Belpre is enrolled in Bradford College near Columbus to study as a physical therapy assistant.

“I’m said to see my high school days end, but I’m on to better things,” she said.

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Students wave at a friend while waiting to go into the 2019 Washington County Career Center year-end awards ceremony Tuesday at the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center on the Marietta College campus.

Odessa Tornes of Waterford will go off in a different career direction, studying early childhood education at Washington State Community College, and Jerimiah Stitt of Belpre is going to Harding University in Searcy, Ark., to study Bible and ministry.

Christian Welch of Marietta has enlisted in the Air Force and reports Sept. 3.

“It’s turning another page in life,” he said. “The Air Force will be a great career to set up my life. It’s a pathway to greatness.”

The students, shepherded by career center principal Mike Elliot, crossed the bridge, climbed the stairs inside and filed in as “Pomp and Circumstance” played through the sound system. After being seated, they were welcomed by superintendent Dennis Blatt.

“This is an especially outstanding class of exceptional young men and women,” Blatt said. “Find, live and share your purpose.”

Valedictorian Hunter Gilbert, a Belpre student, gave credit to those who support students.

“It was a lot of work to get here, but we couldn’t have done it without our teachers, our coaches, our friends and families. My parents backed me no matter what,” he said.

Noting that he felt too young to give life advice, Gilbert still offered some encouragement to his classmates.

“Step outside your comfort zone and do what makes you happy,” he said. “The risk is always worth it because even in failure, we learn. Make the choices that make you happy, chase that dream.”

Scholarship presentations in more than 20 categories, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, were made following Gilbert’s speech. The values ranged from $400 to more than $10,000.

New for this year were the Lester Noh Key Club Scholarship of $1,000, presented by musician and teacher Mark Doebrich, and the Roger and Kathy Bartunek Scholarship, funded by the two retired educators, for $500.

“This is a joyous day to recognize achievement,” Doebrich said. The scholarship went to Ivy Pugh in graphic design and video production.

“I’m proud of you, I know the struggles you all have been through,” Kathy Bartunek said, presenting the scholarship to Spencer Crone, a graduate in the heavy equipment operator course.

Leading to the ending ceremony as students prepared to receive their documents onstage, Elliot offered a few words.

“I’m excited for your future, and I’m sad to say good-bye,” he said. “You’re joining thousands of career center alumni, so come back and visit, stay in touch. And a huge thanks to the parents, thank you for sharing your sons and daughters with us. They’re ready to go out and conquer the world.”

As the students crossed the stage, Rocky Morris of Marietta took photos of his two sons, Atlas Morris and Christian Welch.

“They’re great boys, and I love the career center,” he said. “I went there myself, took carpentry, then auto diesel mechanics.”

Julie Burer of Marietta took a picture of her son’s fiancee, Gabby Wilson, as she received her diploma in cosmetology. Her son, Sonny Fish, came out of the same class as a carpenter.

“He’s my third one for the career center,” she said.

2019 Washington County Career Center senior awards ceremony

• Senior students: 213.

• Home school districts: Belpre, Fort Frye, Frontier, Marietta, Warren, Wolf Creek.

• Class motto: “Inspire and empower all to dream, believe and achieve.”

• Valedictorian: Hunter Gilbert, Belpre High School.