May 22, 2013 - Another 300 Oxford High School graduates entered the world Friday evening as the 2013 commencement ceremony was held at the Ultimate Soccer Arena in Pontiac.
OHS graduates Scott Skilling (left) and Ademara Lowe won the Oxford Cup. Check out the Leader’s special graduation section on pages 15-30. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
A total of 136 members of the Class of 2013 graduated with some form of academic honors. At the very top of the list was Valedictorian Daniel Nara and salutatorians Madeline Dickens and Yichen Yao.
"Valedictorian means being validated for all my hard work," Nara said. "It has reinforced my notion that motivation leads to success, not just one's aptitude."
"I knew I had a great potential," he noted. "I wanted to see how far I could go. I wanted to know if I could stretch my limits."
For Nara, being named valedictorian was the continuation of a family tradition as his grandfather, Ronald Hall, was Oxford's valedictorian for the Class of 1957 as well as the Oxford Cup winner and class president.
Hall was at commencement, watching his grandson follow in his footsteps.
"I just wanted to make my grandfather proud," Nara said. Nara will attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor this fall to study material science and engineering. So far, he's been awarded $2,500 in scholarship money and could potentially receive more.
Nara is hoping to someday have a career in the aerospace industry.
"I'd prefer research and development, but I'd be okay with pretty much any job in the aerospace field," he said.
Rounding out the Class of 2013's Top 25 scholars were Zachary Bachner, Bradley Banas, Alexandra Corrion, Rachael Crain, Bethany Dewey, Makayla Eckardt, Nora Gilliam, Kelsey Harrison, Riley Hayes, Megan Hunter, Casey Keils, Emma Kimmel, Andrea Kocher, Brooke Kovacic, Lauren Krzisnik. Courtney Lavender, Michael McCormick, Jessica Ojeda, Litong Pei, Lauren Rechenbach-Chapman, Katie Reed, Madison Tilley, Lauren Ubbing, Liyuan Zhang and Janelle Zuccaro.
Two graduates received something more than a diploma or academic honors. They became part of a local legend.
Ademara Lowe and Scott Skilling won the coveted Oxford Cup and will have their names engraved on the 83-year-old trophy.
"I was really surprised. I cried," Lowe said. "It was a really good feeling. It showed how many people love me and reminded me of all the people I love out there."
"Some friends told me they nominated me, but I had no idea. I didn't really think about it until my name was called," Skilling said. "It feels great. It's definitely humbling. I'm thankful for all the people that have been part of my life to get me to where I am. My name's on the cup, but a lot of people helped me along the way and I'm so grateful for that."
Since 1930, the silver cup's been awarded annually at commencement to the graduating senior in the top 100 of his or her class who's "shown the best all-around development."
Selected by a vote of the junior and senior classes, along with OHS faculty, the winner must exhibit proficiency in scholarship, friendly social qualities, well-balanced physical development and superior school citizenship.
Last year, the tradition was changed and now there's one male and one female winner of the Oxford Cup.
"Every year that we've had to nominate other people (for the cup), I've taken it extremely seriously (and tried to pick) someone who's well-rounded," Lowe said. "I can think of 20 other people I would have given it to, so it's a really big honor for me. It's a great way to end my (senior) year. I'm really glad people saw in me what I see in other people."
"It's definitely an honor. I'm grateful they thought of me as a well-rounded person," said Skilling, who noted he's glad his fellow students will remember him as a "nice guy."
Lowe graduated Summa Cum Laude, an honor reserved for graduates with a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.85 or higher. A member of the National Honor Society (NHS), she was also secretary of the student council executive board, part of the school's anti-bullying and freshmen mentorship programs and a member of concert choir.
An avid dancer, Lowe was part of the dance team during her freshman and sophomore years. She also spent a year as a member of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).
"I kind of just dipped my fingers into everything," she said.
Lowe plans to attend Michigan State University in the fall. She isn't exactly sure what her area of study will be, but it will involve the sciences, most likely chemistry.
"I do like working with people," she said, so whatever career field Lowe ends up choosing, she wants it to incorporate that aspect of her personality.
Skilling graduated Cum Laude, an honor reserved for graduates with a cumulative GPA between 3.5 and 3.698. During his high school career, he played football for the varsity team, sang in the men's choir and had roles in four of the school's musicals.
Skilling plans to attend Spring Arbor University near Jackson, Michigan. There he will study social studies and participate in the U.S. Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program. "Maybe I'll be a teacher someday or have an army career. We'll see. I don't know yet," he said.
When asked who her most influential teacher was at OHS, Lowe replied, "All my teachers really influenced me in their own way and were a part of my life.
"But one I really admired a lot was Dr. (Marsha) Chapman because of her love for what she does. She loves her students and is really dedicated to what she does."
Chapman, who's been with the district since 1977, teaches language arts.
Skilling indicated he was most influenced by Football Coach Bud Rowley and Choir Teacher Christopher Card.
"I saw those men every day, all four years, whether it was in the lunch room, in class or at practice," he said. "They just taught me so much. They're very different personalities, but I've learned so much from both of them."
Lowe urged her fellow graduates to "Be smart (and) have fun – in that order."
"Go Wildcats and God bless," Skilling said.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.