New location, same great ceremony: 262 in NRHS Class of 2017

By Michael Fitzpatrick

The North Ridgeville Class of 2017 ended its collective high school career with the school’s 92nd commencement ceremony on May 24.

The event marked the first year it was held inside the cavernous Wolstein Arena on the campus of Cleveland State University. For years, the district had used the Stocker Center at Lorain County Community College to conduct the event, but that facility is no longer large enough to accommodate the crowd, according to district officials.

The change of location turned out to be a hit. It received a thumbs-up from not only many of the 262 graduates, but family and friends of the graduates, and school administrators.

Last year, students were limited to just three tickets when the event was held at LCCC and this year students were given as many as eight tickets if need be.

Superintendent Jim Powell said he’ll remember the class as being one with “such nice kids.”

No better authority than the staff that worked the group’s prom earlier this month at LaCentre in Westlake can attest to that, according to Powell.

“When we had our prom at (LaCentre), the staff said ‘the best group of kids we’ve ever had in here,’” Powell recalled as he walked off the arena floor following the event.

The event began for the students at 5:30 p.m. when the soon-to-be grads boarded yellow high school buses and made the trip down I-90 east to the Wolstein Center.

Valedictorian Zach Schwartz, who also spoke during the ceremony, said the ride provided a last chance for everyone to be together.

“It was great to laugh with everyone one last time,” said Schwartz.

And it was great to be able to have all those who wanted to see the event be able to do so, which was afforded by the aforementioned move to the Wolstein Center.

“It was awesome just to move to the bigger venue and allow us to have much more of our families and friends come,” Schwartz said.

During his remarks to his classmates, Schwartz, who will attend the University of Central Florida, talked about the importance of family, not only immediate family and blood relations, but also in the broader sense of community. He also talked about creating a lasting legacy.

Student after student strode across the large stage to receive their diplomas, shaking hands with school board members, as well as Powell and Principal Thomas Szendrey.

Nobody received a larger round of applause from the student section than Kyle Bayer, a special needs student who’s been in the district for years and is popular with his peers, based on the ovation he received from the crowd when his name was announced as a graduate.

Lisa Harrelson, who worked with Bayer during middle school, basked in the celebratory glow of the event backstage with her former student following the ceremony.

“This is just amazing to see him be with his peers that he’s been with since elementary school. The whole auditorium cheered for him when he walked across the stage and that’s how it’s been his whole life, everybody loves him,” Harrelson said.

There were the occasional booming shouts of congratulations, and one bold student snuck in on the microphone where a school administrator read the name of graduates and shouted out for all to hear “I did it, Mom.”

He wasn’t the only one.




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