NEWARK, Del. – A sea of blue filled into the Bob Carpenter Convocation Center at the University of Delaware, but it wasn’t college students in attendance. Instead, 334 high school seniors filled the seats on the floor for Unionville’s 91st commencement.
Unionville’s Class of 2014 featured 12 National Merit finalists, one semi-finalist and 19 commended students. The district will be represented far and wide come the fall as the graduates will continue their education at colleges and universities across the nation, from Vermont to California and at prestigious schools including Harvard and West Point.
The graduating seniors were informed by the Unionville-Chadds Ford Superintendent John Sanville of a distinct achievement but it wasn’t in academics or athletics.
“You are the only senior class that has been the recipient of 11 snow and flood days, plus six delays and I know, particularly, you like the fact you didn’t have to make them up,” he said, met with much applause and laughter from the assembled crowd.
“From here on out, the forecast for every one of you is bright and promising … Yes, there will be clouds, but remember, they will offer cover and insulation and then drift away. There will be storms, big in name and small and anonymous that may be inconvenient, but you are prepared and capable of handling.”
It was the perfect tie-in to rainbows in the message given by Principal Paula Massanari.
Reminiscing about her favorite childhood movie, she told the graduating class about the life lessons that can be taken from it and how it can apply to them in this day and age.
That movie was “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Each of you is standing at the edge of a new horizon,” Massanari said in her speech. “I encourage you to dream big as you look over that rainbow. Take some time this summer to visualize your future possibilities and then commit to working hard to turn those possibilities into reality.”
Even the high school chorale director, Jason Throne, was in on the theme as his choir sang “Over the Remember” in the beginning of the ceremony.
And that wasn’t even the last of the music.
The commencement featured four student honor speakers, with three of them taking the stage to give speeches at the podium. But the fourth, Brock Benzel, instead took the stage and sat behind a piano to play and sing for his fellow graduates a special song he wrote just for the occasion.
From weather to rainbows and music, it felt like a reincarnation of the 75-year-old film and one each of the graduates will remember for a lifetime.
“My advice is simple,” Sanville said. “No matter where you go, remember weather is what happens around you and the most powerful force of nature is within you. Use it, rely on it and harness its strength.”
Massanari left the students with one simple message: Just like Dorothy, don’t ever be afraid to find your way back home.
“I urge you to cling to the dream that you discover for yourself and don’t get discouraged,” she said.
“Look beyond the rainbow, smile and get to work to make your big dream come true … Graduates, there really is no place like home and Unionville will always be your home.”