With a shift of their tassels and a countdown from senior class president Gabrielle Matusky, the Steel Valley Class of 2023 launched their caps into the air and took a giant leap toward the next stage of their lives.
The Steel Valley School District celebrated its 52nd annual commencement on Wednesday, May 31 at the William V. Campbell Athletic Field in Munhall. The recurring theme from those who stepped to the podium in celebration of the Class of 2023 was an appreciation for the district's sense of community, the support and guidance from inspiring teachers, and a recognition of the perseverence this class needed through its four years of high school.
Salutatorian Chelsea Bulger reminded her classmates to remember that life is unpredictable and that things don't always go as planned. However, they should look back at their journey through high school with a sense of accomplishment.
"Every student within the Class of 2023 should be proud of how far they've come," she said. "Each one of you has accomplished something very special on your academic journey. Your hard work paid off."
Valedictorian Brenna Kern praised her classmates for maintaining their spirit through an unpredictable four years of high school.
"From bedbugs, power outages, broken air conditioners, and a literal pandemic, the Class of 2023 all persevered together," Kern said. "What I love about our class is that we strive to make memories. Even though we were online, hybrid and partially in-person learning, I think it's safe to say we made the most of our high school years together."
Connor Brady and Jasmin Harris also spoke as this year's outstanding career and technical education students. Brady thanked teacher Mrs. Michelle Madigan for her guidance toward the Steel Center for Career and Technical Education and helping him pursue a future in working with animals.
"This is a very bittersweet moment for all of us," Harris said. "However, we are all moving on to bigger achievements and I wish you all the best."
Superintendent Edward Wehrer shared with the audience some of the individual accomplishments from the Class of 2023. From Eagle Scout projects completed by Nathan Collins and David Packer to the future military service of Jennifer Nguyen, T.J. Dunlevy, and Krystal Phouthavong to the athletic heights reached by Cruce Brookins and Makhai Valentine to the musical performances of Bre Francis, Randy Keller and Brenna Kern and beyond, the Class of 2023 found multiple ways to shine.
Jim Bulger, President of the Steel Valley Board of School Directors, relayed advice he received from mentor and former NFL official Ed Camp. When asked what his mark of success was, Camp replied that it was when he knew people liked working with him. Mr. Bulger encouraged the Class of 2023 to strive for the same goal.
He then introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Jean M. Vettel. A 1998 Steel Valley graduate, Dr. Vettel is now the Chief Scientist for Futures and Concepts Center at Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas. A internationally recognized neuroscientist, Dr. Vettel's work has been featured in numerous peer-reviewed journals and cited in hundreds of other studies.
Dr. Vettel shared some of the advice she's picked up in her journey to working with a three-star general in the Army, as well as memories from her time at Steel Valley. She recalled the influence of teachers Ms. Toni Besh and Mr. Michael Altman, including the development of her love of semantic worldplay from Mr. Altman.
Since Dr. Vettel graduated early from Steel Valley, she did not attend commencement with the rest of the Class of 1998. As a surprise for her return to her alma mater, she was presented with a cap, gown and diploma on the 25th anniversary of her class' graduation.
The Steel Valley School District extends a warm congratulations to all of the graduates in the Class of 2023.