Pioneer graduates told to find their place, make a difference at commencement

Story and photos by Andrew Cluley

Communications Specialist

The theme of finding your own place and making the world better was repeated frequently last night at Pioneer High School’s Commencement Ceremony.   Pioneer’s 412 new graduates received their diplomas at Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center.

The class of 2015 choose English teacher Shawn Ashley to give the keynote address. Ashley urged the graduates to respect the views of friends and family, but says they need to make their own choices. “You must make the decisions about your life and your happiness. You wake up each morning into your life. No one else does. I want each of you to wake to the day as I do, excited for the profession and lifestyle that I’ve chosen, that I’ve crafted. Don’t let others tell you how to live your life. Don’t let others tell you to choose a certain major, don’t let others tell you to vote in a certain way. Don’t let others tell you to like certain clothes, or tv shows, or people, or books. Don’t let others tell you to cut your hair,” Ashley says.

While Ashley suggested the graduates should make plans for their life, he says they also need to be ready to handle obstacles without retreating into a shell. “Your adjustment to the unexpected and uncontrolled defines your life. It can bring great joys never contemplated. When life puts a roadblock in your path, paint it your favorite color, build a hang glider out of it and soar into a new future,” he says.

Class President Brett Boehman asked his classmates to be genuine and try hard whatever they are doing. He says the world is facing complex challenges around race relations, climate change, a looming energy crisis, polarized national politics, and the threat of a homogenized food supply driven by a single corporation. That’s why Boehman says everyone in his class needs to rise to the occasion. “Rather than shrinking away from such a daunting task, rather than seeing an obstacle and turning away, it’s the perfect opportunity and the perfect moment for us all to rise to the occasion and unleash our full potential.”

The message of finding their place and making the world better wasn’t lost on the graduates. Lisa Qian says “I think that really resonates with us as we’re trying to find our own path as adults in the world of tomorrow.” Qian plans on going to Yale to study economics and math in the fall. She’s glad to be done with high school but thankful for her time at Pioneer.

While much of the graduation ceremony was focused on the future, the graduates were also honored for their achievements at Pioneer. 97 graduates earned Pioneer Scholars recognition for having a grade point average of 3.9 or above. About 75 percent of the class earned a GPA of over 3.5.

The following awards for character and achievement were also presented at commencement

  • Horatio N Chute Award: Nile George Nwogu
  • Alice Porter Award: Maya Makhlouf
  • Mary Ellen Lewis Humanitarian Service Award: Emma St. Pierre
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Award: Logan Tillman, Mitchell Tillman, and Alana Wilson
  • Emerson Powrie Memorial Scholarship: Thomas Uhler

Prior to the presentation of diplomas a moment of silence was held for Hsin-En “Esther” Chin who passed away last month.

Even before the ceremony officially began, the graduates got to see a special presentation. Nile George-Nwogu says this may have been his favorite part of graduation. “I really enjoyed listening to our teachers’ speeches, right before we came out we got to see a video of all our teachers saying goodbye to us which was really cool. Some of the stuff sounded cheesy, but it just felt really great,” he says.

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