Graduates recall teachers who made a difference
Eagle Staff Writer
Written by:
June 10, 2017
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Mars High School graduates toss their mortarboards into the air Thursday night to celebrate at the conclusion of the commencement ceremony at the school. Diplomas were awarded to 253 graduates.

ADAMS TWP — Excitement was in the air Thursday night at the Mars High School auditorium, where 253 seniors ended their public school careers.

The students prepared in the cafeteria for their procession into the auditorium. Charlesa Fassinger, who has taught at Mars High School for 31 years and will retire in a few days, pinned carnations on gown after gown for the final time.

For more than 20 years, Fassinger has helped with the programs, placed honor stoles, National Honor Society cords and honor roll pins on the graduating seniors, and lined up the students so they proceed into the auditorium in the correct order.

“I'll miss it, but it'll be OK,” Fassinger said.

As for the seniors, many hugged or took selfies together to commemorate the auspicious event.

“It's weird. It's sad. It's exciting,” said Katie Olsen. “This is a really good class, and I'm excited to see where life takes all of us.”

Olsen named Michael Holupka as an especially inspiring teacher for her.

“He was my seventh- grade band director,” she said. “I learned so much from Mr. Holupka, and here I am graduating and going to school for music education.”

Olsen said she was anxious to graduate and move on.

“The graduation robes are warm and I want ice cream,” she said.

Rachel McKernan appreciated the education provided by the Mars School District over the years.

“They led us in the right direction, and I'm prepared,” she said.

McKernan named Julie Clifton, her middle school literature teacher, as her most memorable instructor.

“She really encouraged me,” McKernan said. “I don't know where I'd be without her.”

McKernan will study to be a physician's assistant at Gannon University.

Kevin Vickinovac waited to line up for the procession with a group of friends.

“It's exciting to be done,” he said.

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Mars High School teacher Charlesa Fassinger, who is retiring this month, helps Josh Ruth arrange his graduation regalia Thursday at the high school cafeteria. Fassinger has helped with the graduation ceremony for more than 20 years.

Vickinovac will work as an emergency medical technician and continue to volunteer as a firefighter after high school.

He named Dave Goodworth as a noteworthy teacher at Mars.

“He was my football coach, and he talked to me about trying hard and working hard,” Vickinovac said.

Sarah Langer has attended Mars schools since kindergarten.

“I'm excited, but also a little sad,” she said. “I look forward to the future, but I'm going to miss my friends.”

She said high school English teacher Darcy Silbaugh inspired her the most.

“She allowed me to channel my inner writer and she made every class fun,” Langer said.

Several school board members handed out diplomas at the ceremony, including John Kennedy, whose oldest child, Jacob, graduated Thursday night.

Kennedy said he was excited, yet a little sad at the prospect of his son's graduation. He admitted he never thought he would be handing Jacob his diploma.

“I've been thinking about it for the last three or four years,” Kennedy said. “It's a great day.”

He said Jacob will study environmental science at Waynesburg University in the fall.

School board President Dayle Ferguson was upbeat as usual before taking the stage.

“Graduation is always such a joyful event,” Ferguson said. “These are talented students who come from amazing, supportive families.”

Lindsay Rosswog, the high school principal, was experiencing her first graduation since her own from Mars in 2004 as Lindsay Giel.

“I'm very excited to watch them move on to the next level of their lives,” Rosswog said.

Superintendent Wesley Shipley summed up the thoughts of all those on Thursday night who watched the Mars High School Class of 2017 graduate.

“We wish them well in their pursuits and we know they'll make the Mars School District very proud,” he said.