Tears, cheers greet Unionville High grads

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90th Commencement of Unionville High School, looks back and forward for Class of 2013

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Unionville High School graduates celebrate by throwing their caps in the air following Wednesday’s ceremony.

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
NEWARK, Del. — There were tears, cheers, trips of remembrance (and a few invasions of the sometimes stark real world) as faculty, staff, family and friends came together Wednesday to witness the graduation of the Unionville High School’s Class of 2013 — the 90th such commencement ceremony in school history.

With a packed house on hand to watch the proceedings at the Bob Carpenter Center on the campus of the University of Delaware, members of the class were reminded a bit of their past — with a few laughs mixed in for good measure — and the potential of their futures.

High School principal Paula Massanari spoke about not just how the students were influenced by the faculty — but how they had influenced the faculty and would, in the years ahead, have the ability to influence others and world at large. She spoke about the power of heartfelt compliments, and noted the positive influence of Random Act of Kindness Week at the school, organized by graduating senior Jackie Xu.

Dr. John Sanville, Superintendent of Schools for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, talked about how much the world had changed in just the four years the students had been at the high school, a period that has been difficult at times.

“We’ve faced challenges from mother nature to madness,” alluding to Hurricane Sandy, the Newtown, Conn. shootings and the recent Boston bombings.

But those four years, although trying at times, were important in the students progress toward adulthood, as Wednesday graduation provided a major milestone on that journey.

“We welcome you to our world, because it needs you,” he said.

One of the more emotional moments came following the speech of senior Jeffrey Siegel. Siegel, who has Down Syndrome, spoke movingly about his school experiences, thanking his teachers and classmates, noting that he will be attending the University of Delaware in the fall. He received a lengthy and loud standing ovation from his classmates.

Seniors Jeremy Waterkotte and Jaqueline Viens shared the podium, recalling a few moments from the previous four years and exchanging in some light-hearted banter before giving way to fellow graduating senior Evan Dupuis, who spoke on similar themes.

The final speaker before diplomas were bestowed on the graduates was Vince O’Donnell, the long-time Unionville High School science teacher who is retiring after 45 years of teaching in the district. He was voted as the school’s Educator of the Year.

Although he spoke on a number of subjects, he enjoyed a few laughs as he explained how one of his students — he didn’t name names — helped him overcome any doubts that this was the time to retire.

He recounted a story about using a phone to take a picture of himself and the student and then upon seeing himself, said to the student: “I look tired.”

O’Donnell, a twinkle in his eye as he told the story, said that any doubts he had about retiring vanished when the student said: “you’re old. You’re supposed to look tired.”

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