MARS — Mars High School's graduation capped a journey of growth for its departing students on Thursday.
“High school is where I found out everything about myself,” graduate Amelia Haley said. “I found out what's important to me and who my friends were.”
Haley will continue to St. Bonaventure as a tennis recruit. She said she wants to pursue the medical field through a major in biochemistry.
“I'm excited to have a fresh start in college,” Haley said.
Haley and her fellow students gathered before the ceremony, during which they were arranged in typical graduation formation. The graduates helped each other with all the tassels, pins and rankled nerves.
Graduate Ben Merritt said he will miss the peers who have helped shape him into who he is today.
”The kids I've been around, the relationships I've found, and going through this together, is something I'll never forget,” Merritt said. “It's exciting to know we're all moving on to bigger and better things.”
Merritt will attend Penn State University in the fall with a major in finance.
Graduate Jessica Pengilly said she felt relieved to be at the end of such a long scholastic experience.
“It's a breath of fresh air,” Pengilly said. “I feel so good to finally be done, in a good way.”
Pengilly, who will study biology in the fall at Penn State Behrend, said she was thankful for her many teachers who helped guide her throughout the process.
“I won't forget the relationships I had with teachers,” she said. “They don't make you feel like a student. They make you feel like a friend.”
Graduate Andrew Pierre was the first student to speak during the ceremony. He urged his classmates to find their purpose in life and excel.
“After tonight, we will head our own way,” Pierre said. “We will all fulfill the roles we have been striving to fulfill for years, even if we don't quite know what that is.”
Mars Superintendent Wes Shipley also wished the students well moving forward.
“Class, tonight marks the beginning of a new phase in your lives,” Shipley said. “You have accomplished great things this year.”
After acknowledging all those who have helped the Class of 2019 reach this milestone, he asked the students to stand and offer their parents a round of applause.
Shipley then offered the students one last piece of advice based on a saying he has heard throughout the year.
“Always be true to yourself and your own personal values,” he said. “When you get lost, because we all do, look at your internal compass and find your north.”