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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Getting a chance to meet some shining stars of the Class of 2013

By the time Charles Roman finished reading off Allee Vito’s accomplishments, the crowd on hand at Monday’s Willoughby Rotary Club meeting was bathed in the greatness of the Class of 2013.

They’d heard descriptions of the four finalists for the club’s Student of the Year award and been humbled by their many achievements.

Roman, head of school at Andrews Osborne Academy, began the program with a breakdown of those who’d applied for the scholarship awards: average grade-point average was 4.22; average applicant was involved in eight organizations or school activities, four community service activities and had received nine honors or awards. The average applicant also had held at least four jobs throughout their high school years.

In addition to the AOA senior, competing for the $750 first prize and runner-up $250 checks were Shanti Fencil of North High in Eastlake; Lin L. Maio of South High in Willoughby; and Alex Skiljan of Kirtland High.

It’s easy be impressed when you hear phrases like “Academic Decathlon” followed by “National Honor Society” and “National Merit Scholar.” Putting the letters A and P together during most of my year signals The Associated Press, but at luncheons with scholars, it denotes advanced work in courses such as physics and chemistry.

But these youngsters also are volunteers, taking part in camps, tutoring and levy campaigns. They’ve worked to battle bullying in their schools and used their language skills to assist both foreign exchange students and those abroad.

They’ve won state championships in football, Shakespeare speech awards and enough scholarships to fund a small Caribbean nation.

But they’re also your average teenager, reminded by Mom to sit up straight or by Dad to be careful not to get pasta sauce on their tie.

They’re also just like four other youngsters I discovered this week in Mentor.

These four gentlemen were taking part in the first Mentor High School Military Signing Day.

Bound for the armed forces, they were introduced and stood at parade rest as their accomplishments in school and dreams for the future were listed for an audience filled with city officials, family members and veterans of wartime service that included World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

Ryan Hollis is headed July 24 to the U.S. Navy, where his plans are to become a Master at Arms, which is the Navy’s military police. He hopes to become a police officer when he leaves the service.

Hollis surprised his grandmother, Wallyne Wagner of Mentor, who was sitting next to me during the ceremony, when it was announced that he planned a career in the Navy, serving for 20 years.

“I didn’t know he was planning on making it a career,” she said. “But it’ll be good for him.”

She said Hollis’ father, John, served in the Army for four years after he graduated from high school.
“I think it’s good for them, it gives them structure, which they need,” she said.

Wagner’s daughter, Karin, is Hollis’ mother. Karin and John Hollis also were on hand for the ceremony honoring their son.

Also headed to the military from Mentor High are Jeremy Lutz and Martynas Sidlauskas, who will be joining the Army, and Rafiq Oglesby is headed to the National Guard.

Sidlauskas plans to become a firefighter in the Army, and Oglesby will be a human resources specialist before heading to medical school.

Lutz intends to become a cav scout, which means he’ll be the eyes and ears of the commander during battle.

Tenth-grade unit principal Adam Dudziak listed the accomplishments of each of these young men and read some words from teachers about their work in the classroom and as leaders among their peers.

High praise goes to Mentor High for taking time to honor them.

Far too often it’s only the athletes who earn the accolades. These young men deserve our thanks and high praise for volunteering to do the jobs necessary to keep our country safe.

The cheers at the ceremony were touching and well deserved.

And, as I look back on a week with the Class of 2013, it’s good to know that they’re ready to work hard and take on some big responsibility.

Good luck to you all.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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