ANALYSIS: Lake graduation ceremony begins community’s healingWritten by Andy Ouriel | | firstname.lastname@example.org
PERRYSBURG, Ohio – Lake High School’s Class of 2010 is not starting a new journey alone.
Lake Township community will stride with the graduates each step of the way, especially in the coming days.
The June 8 graduation ceremony at Owens Community College was as much of a commencement ceremony for students as it was a healing process for the entire community.
June 5′s F4 tornado, which destroyed Lake High School, decimated numerous homes and killed five residents, was a grim backdrop to the ceremony, which congratulated the 104 graduating seniors for their academic achievements.
As residents from Millbury to Moline helped one another rebuild homes over the past 72 hours, the ceremony relieved those hurting for at least a couple hours. And instead of speakers ignoring the tornadoes, they were the main points of many speeches.
Student speaker Dustin Fincher addressed family and friends and said Lake High School and the township will only benefit from the disaster.
“The events of June 5th have devastated the school and torn up homes and businesses, but it has also strengthened the community,” he said. “It’s truly heartwarming to see so many people so ready and motivated to help when they can. There is a lot of hard work to be done, but after seeing the dedication and effort to clean up, I believe we can all rest assure work will get done.”
Jim Witt, superintendent of Lake Local Schools, assured Lake High School will be together in some fashion next year. Unity is helping the community get through this tragedy and the concept will be used greatly in rebuilding the high school, he said. to “By sticking together and taking care of each other, this school district and this community will be even stronger,” Witt said.
Graduates received a 10-minute standing ovation when the ceremony began at 7 p.m. Valedictorian Katelyn Kranz, whose father Ted was killed in the tornado, received two overwhelming, supportive receptions from the audience.
And while it might be tough to move on from the tornadoes, going forward is what the community needs to do, said Margene Akenberger, vice president for Lake Local Schools Board of Education.
“Lake schools and the community will start to rebuild and we will all heal,” she said.
Akenberger walked around the high school on June 6, looking for a sign from God. As she toured the east side and gazed through the auditorium, she saw an “unmarked, unscathed” American flag. She also saw the high school’s hall of athletic records standing by its lonesome.
Akenberger said the two objects represented inside the obliterated school embodied values the Lake School System teaches: Strength, sacrifice, dedication, survival and success.
“Like High School will rise again and our pride will move on,” she said. “We can be knocked down, but we won’t be defeated.”
Dave Harms, father to graduate Krystal A. Harms, said the event was “very classy” and necessary for the community to progress.
“I think this was an amazing event for the community,” Harms said. “It helps bring everybody together and were able to move on and put a close to a little bit of this.”
Graduate Roland Spencer Genson III said the ceremony was an escape for people. For two hours, the community didn’t have to worry about their possessions missing or homes being damaged. Everyone came together and celebrated a joyous occasion, he said.
“I just think this is where everybody can come together and they can be happy of all the accomplishments that all the students have achieved over the past 12 years,” he said.
The community will thrive from this tragedy, Akenberger said. As long as Lake Township’s individuals remain strong, like they have done in the past days, the community will only grow stronger.
“The storm devastated our community. It destroyed our school. It broke our hearts. But it cannot take away what you have accomplished and it certainly won’t break your spirit,” she said.