OHHS seniors become graduates; 95 receive diplomas at Davis StadiumFree Access

12 honor graduates offer speeches



Oak Hill Superintendent Jason Mantell is pictured addressing the Oak Hill Class of 2023 during the Oak Hill High School Graduation. (Telegram Photos by Jeremiah Shaver)

The 124th class of graduates at Oak Hill High School (OHHS) walked this year inside Davis Stadium in front of family, friends, and teachers to receive their diplomas.

The graduation ceremony, held on Friday evening, May 19, began with the processional being played by the Oak Hill High School Band, followed by “The Star-Spangled Banner” being sung by the Oak Hill Choir.

Oak Hill Superintendent Jason Mantell gave a welcome as well as saying a few words to the seniors.

Oak Hill senior Camryn Kirby is pictured just after handing Oak Hill High School Principal Randy Layton a fishing bobber. The students carried out an inside farewell joke on Layton as he is retiring this year. A majority of the students handed Layton a bobber as they crossed the stage to receive their diploma.

“I owe this group two apologies,” stated Mantell. “My first apology is that we only used one snow day your senior year… I am sorry.”

Mantell said, “Secondly and on a more serious note, I apologize for not getting to know each and every one of you. This being my first year here I didn’t have that opportunity, but for the ones that I did have regular communication with or even one interaction, I thank you for welcoming me and again it was a fantastic year. I appreciate all that you’ve done.”

He went on to tell the members of the Class of 2023 that moving forward, he asked that group to do three things. The first thing was that the students take positive advantage of every opportunity provided to them, the second thing was to not take time for granted and embrace all the time that they have, and the final thing was to show appreciation toward those who support them. Mantell also told the students that they always have a home in Oak Hill.

Next, Oak Hill High School Principal Randy Layton introduced this year’s valedictorians — Holly Barger, Garren Brown, Abby Donley, Aidan Hall, Abigail Hanning, Jordan Howard, Elizabeth Hughes, Kaydee Johnson, Amelia Michael, Rylan Sams and Reagan Michael. The salutatorian was Makayla Dearth. Each of these top-ranking academic students delivered speeches.

The Oak Hill High School Class of 1973 was honored and recognized during graduation. Pictured are Oak Hill High School 50-year graduates Susan Morgan and Carolyn Murphy. Many other 50-year graduates were in attendance. It was noted that the Class of 1973 graduated during Oak Hill’s Centennial (100th anniversary).

First to speak was Holly Barger. She is the daughter of Flint and Jodi Barger. Holly plans to graduate from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree.

“I want to start by congratulating my fellow classmates,” stated Holly. “We did it. And I am proud of every single one of you.”

Holly said, “Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty around our future. Some of us have it planned out to a T, some of us don’t even know the plan for tomorrow. And that’s okay. I fully believe that the Class of 2023 is ready to change the world. Remember that whatever path you choose is the correct path for you.”

She reminded her classmates to work hard, show dedication, and to have passion all while never losing sight of the things that make them happy.

Garren Brown was next to take the podium. He is the son of Stephen and Tony Brown. Garren’s college plans are to attend The Ohio State University and receive a bachelor’s degree in Theater. After college, Garren would like to move to Los Angeles or New York and pursue a career in film acting.

“We should be proud of ourselves for the hard work, dedication, and perseverance that has brought us to this point,” stated Garren. “We have overcome obstacles, faced challenges, and made sacrifices to get here, and we have done it all with grace and dignity.”

Garren said, “But, as we bask in the glory of this moment, we must not forget the people who have helped us along the way. Our parents, families, teachers, and friends have been our support system, our guiding light, and our inspiration. They have believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves, and they have pushed us to be our best selves. To all of them, we owe a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid.”

The Oak Hill High School Choir, under the direction of Brittany Ruth, is pictured singing a song entitled “I Lived.”

Up next was Abby Donley. She is the daughter of Josh and Lorrie Donley. Abby will attend Ohio University to major in Business.

“I can confidently say that when I started high school, I did not think that I would ever be a valedictorian,” stated Abby. “However, here I am now, and it could not be possible without many people who have helped me along the way.”

Abby said, “There was a quote that I found inspiring when it came to getting through high school and just life in general. I would like to share it. The quote is to succeed in life, you need three things, a wish bone, a backbone, and a funny bone. This quote is from none other than the great Reba McEntire. Her words have stuck with me.”

Abby went on to give examples of each of the “bones” from the quote, and ended her speech by thanking Oak Hill for making her who she is today.

The Oak Hill Marching Band, under the direction of Bryce Werntz, is shown performing during the 2023 Oak Hill Graduation.

After Abby was Aidan Hall. He is the son of Rick and Susan Hall. Aidan will be attending the Florida Institute of Technology to pursue a career in aviation and a degree in Aeronautical Science with Flight.

“High school has given me many enjoyable times, and lessons to carry forward,” said Aidan. “In this proud village, I have met good friends that have turned into brothers, sacrificed countless days practicing for sports without regret, and have had the opportunity to learn things for myself.”

Aidan added, “Like the unfortunate time I learned brake fluid is rather flammable. Maybe I avoid playing with fire and leave that to the professionals. For all of us, I hope we succeed in every aspect of our lives as we go into the uncharted territory that is adulthood.”

The fifth valedictorian was Abigail Hanning. She is the daughter of Scott and Dayleen Hanning. Abigail will be attending Ohio University and majoring in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. Abigail plans to get her master’s degree in School Psychology.

Pictured during the 2023 Oak Hill High School Graduation are Kavan Conley, Trinity Jones, and Matthias Comer-Wolfe.

“To my fellow graduates, we grew up,” said Abigail. “Somewhere between now and then, we matured from the young kindergarteners who played on the playground, to the fifth-graders who had to run suicides because we couldn’t stop tattle-telling on one another, to the freshmen whose school year was cut short by COVID, and finally to the soon-to-be high school graduates.”

Abigail said, “We grew up making cherished memories that will last us a lifetime: like laughing and staying up late with our friends, many school dances, numerous pep-rallies before a big game and countless Friday nights under the lights cheering on our favorite team. While this is just a small fraction of the memories we have made, they are memories that will last forever.”

The sixth was Jordan Howard. She is the daughter of Tim and Josie Howard. Jordan plans to attend The Ohio State University to major in Speech Pathology.

“I know, I know. I didn’t think I’d ever make it this far either,” stated Jordan. “And while I’m at it, don’t let the valedictorian title fool you, because I have my fair share of blonder moments, and we all know it.”

Oak Hill senior Caden Hughes is pictured on the stage in front of family, friends, and teachers. Hughes is shown receiving her diploma from Oak Hill School Board President Aaron Michael.

Jordan said, “We grew up making jokes about how we couldn’t wait till graduation, the year of 2023 engraved in the back of our mind, dreaming about the day we got to embark on our next adventure. However, we were unaware of how quickly we were maturing and how fast the years had passed. Years of waiting for this very moment turned into months. Months turned into weeks. Weeks turned into days… days that have now come to an end. And here I stand before you today as one chapter ends, and another begins.”

The next person was Elizabeth Hughes. She is the daughter of Randy and Erin Hughes. Elizabeth plans to attend Shawnee State University to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Nursing.

“We grew up patiently waiting for the bell to ring each and every day so we could go home just to do it all over again,” said Elizabeth. “We grew up learning to read books, starting off with picture books that soon turned into chapter books.”

Elizabeth said, “Now, here we are ending one chapter of our lives and moving onto the next page. Today, we become Oak Hill graduates.  Now, some of us will stay and some of us will go, but at the end of the day, we all will choose our own path. You all will screw up, and so will I. But that is completely fine because life is an unpredictable journey full of ups and downs, hopes, and dreams, laughs and tears and most of all, opportunities.”

The eighth senior to speak was Kaydee Johnson. She is the daughter of Larry and Meela Johnson. Kaydee plans to attend college in North Carolina to major in Education.

A row of Oak Hill High School graduates are pictured cheering on their classmates during the graduation ceremony. These individuals had already received their diplomas.

“Wow. It’s hard to believe that this moment is here,” said Kaydee. “Since I was in middle school, I have dreamed of being valedictorian of my class.”

Kaydee said, “From checking my grades literally every five seconds, to making sure nothing was turned in late, I can finally say that I made it along with my classmates. It feels like we were just going on our ‘extended spring break’ my freshman year, now here we are at graduation. As this chapter in our lives and our childhood comes to an end, as Taylor Swift said, ‘Never Grow Up’.”

Next up was Amelia Michael. She is the daughter of Adam and Susie Michael. Amelia plans to attend Wright State University and major in Pre-Med to work toward becoming an occupational therapist. She would like to open her own practice one day to help kids with sensory processing disorders, such as ADHD and autism.

“I would like to begin by congratulating my fellow classmates for making it to this day,” said Amelia. “The day many of us have been anticipating for years is now.”

Amelia said, “While all the long nights of studying are not quite over, it certainly has paid off in the end as this new chapter in our lives unfolds. At this point of the ceremony, I am certain that everyone is tired of listening to us ramble on so I would like to make this speech short, simple, and sweet.”

Oak Hill Choir Director Brittany Ruth is shown taking a photo of Madison Shepherd after she received her diploma. Shepherd was one of many senior choir members.

The next to last valedictorian was Rylan Sams. He is the son of Robert Sams and Angela Jewell. Rylan’s future plans are to attend Ohio University to further his education and major in Healthcare Administration.

“When I moved here in the fourth grade from a big city in Georgia, I questioned my parents, why did we move to a town that only has two stop lights, where everyone is practically related to each other,” said Rylan. “I was new to the culture of Oak Hill when I first got here, but after those first couple of days I was welcomed in with open arms and treated like one of you guys.”

Rylan said, “Just recently, I was nominated for an award. The amount of support I got from every single person in this community was surreal. You guys didn’t have to spend chunks of your day voting for me so I would win, but you guys did. That’s why this community is amazing, you guys treat everyone like they are family, and I am glad that I got to be a part of it. I would not trade it for the world.”

The last valedictorian to address those in attendance was Reagan Michael. He is the son of Aaron and Andrea Michael. Reagan’s plans are to attend Ohio University majoring in Nutrition. Ultimately, he would like to become a dermatologist.

“You know, throughout the process of writing this speech, I have found myself exclusively seeking originality,” said Reagan. “Whether it be coming up with some clever new idea that wows the audience, or some quick-witted humor that buys some laughs from all of you listening to me speak.”

Reagan said, “But after thinking some more I remembered that there are 12 other people speaking to you all today… 12 people with the same goal of being unique. Which also means that all of you are sitting here listening to 12 speeches… 12! So, I came to the conclusion that writing a speech that you all will enjoy and remember fondly is probably not going to happen. So, I decided to use this opportunity to share my gratitude, because at the end of this chapter that is what I am feeling most.”

The final honor student to address those in attendance was Salutatorian Makayla Dearth. She is the daughter of Christopher Dearth and Sarah Carmon. Makayla plans to go to Kent State University for her BSN degree. She would like to be a traveling nurse.

“Class of 2023, we made it,” said Makayla. “We all accomplished one of the major early milestones of our lives, high school graduation.”

Makayla said, “This is a major step in our journey through life, and one that should be recognized for its immense significance. It is an act not only of personal commitment, but pride. We have all worked hard to get to this day, and it is finally here. But graduation is not an end goal itself, it is a larger part of the great things all of us will do once we leave here today.”

Then the choir, under the direction of Brittany Ruth, sang the song “I Lived.” Following the song, Oak Hill Middle School Principal Whitney Crabtree introduced 50-year graduates from Oak Hill. Those graduates from Oak Hill High School were honored and recognized. It was noted that the Class of 1973 graduated during Oak Hill’s Centennial (100th anniversary). Some of those graduates were in attendance. The Village of Oak Hill is currently celebrating its Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) during 2023.

Layton along with help from Oak Hill Board of Education President Aaron Michael presented diplomas to 95 seniors. Several students graduated with honors, and it was mentioned that some students were going into the military.

The students also carried out an inside farewell joke on Layton as he is retiring this year. A majority of the students handed Layton a fishing bobber as they crossed the stage to receive their diploma. Layton had told The Telegram in a recent interview that he would be doing some fishing in retirement.

“There are two things I got out of this graduation,” stated Layton. “One, I’ll never have to buy another bobber in my lifetime, and the second thing, I didn’t know how many bobbers would fit in your pocket but now I do.”

After the presentation, Layton had the seniors stand and move their tassels, thus making them graduates. After moving their tassels, the graduates tossed their hats into the air celebrating their completion of high school.

The ceremony wrapped up with the recessional, as the graduates marched off the football field.

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