Elk Lake grads told to ‘find their why’

Senior class president Rachel Manzek, left, and valedictorian Paige Parkhurts lead the graduating class at Elk Lake out of the gym Saturday morning. STAFF PHOTO/JEFFREY HORVATH

Senior class president Rachel Manzek, left, and valedictorian Paige Parkhurts lead the graduating class at Elk Lake out of the gym Saturday morning. STAFF PHOTO/JEFFREY HORVATH

BY JEFFREY HORVATH
Times Shamrock Writer

Elk Lake High School Dean of Students Marc Weisgold challenged the Class of 2014 to “find their why” during commencement exercises Saturday morning.
After taking a “selfie” with the seniors, he noted, “Success is the product of assigning great value to small tasks and working hard on a daily basis to accomplish these tasks.”

“The ‘why’ in life,” he continued, “is the source of this value. It is what motivates us to be better people each day.”

Weisgold interrupted his own speech briefly to hand a crayon to every member of the graduating class. “Every crayon is different,” said Weisgold, “but they are all just as potent, and they all come from the same box called Elk Lake High School.”

“Go develop your dreams daily,” he added.

Valedictorian Paige Parkhurst identified her memories and experiences of Elk Lake as part of her “foundation” and challenged all of her classmates and friends to “take this strong foundation we have and build upon it!”

Salutatorian Matt Woolcock also spoke of school as providing the basis for future success, claiming he was confident “that we are bound for great things” even though “Life is quite simply what you make of it.”

Class President Rachel Manzek reminded the 89 graduates of the Class of 2014 of their shared experiences, and to latch onto memories “Because we can’t get them back.”

A group of Elk Lake seniors engage in a little silliness after receipt of their diplomas Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/JEFFREY HORVATH

A group of Elk Lake seniors engage in a little silliness after receipt of their diplomas Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/JEFFREY HORVATH

She noted the importance of the lessons that memories can teach. “We have learned who we are and what our passions are,” Manzek said. “High School has taught us to live and learn and that being true to yourself is always best.”

She also took the time to remember one of her classmates who could be with the class only in spirit. In 2009 Elk Lake lost Michael Zajaczkowski, who would have graduated on Saturday. “We may not have gotten to grow up entirely with Mike,” said Manzek, “but his memory is a treasure to our class and his gentle heart is missed.”

One of the more emotional moments of the ceremony came as graduate Galen Kithcart waited on stage to receive his diploma. The diplomas are usually distributed by the members of Elk Lake’s trustees, but, on Saturday, there was a slight change of plans. To his surprise, Galen’s diploma was presented to him by his sister, Pfc. Valerie Kithcart, who made the trip from Fort Sill, Oklahoma to see her brother graduate. Seeing the two embrace on stage served as a reminder to the audience that family, too, contributes to the sturdy foundation that the graduates will build their futures upon.

Of the graduates, high school principal Brian Mallery noted that 43 will be attending a four year college or university, seven will be attending a technical college or trade school, 29 will be entering the work force, and three will be joining the military.