May 28, 2014 - Oxford High School's alumni population increased by 356 last week as the Class of 2014 graduated at the Ultimate Soccer Arena in Pontiac.
Graduates Gabrielle Fallis (left) and Lewis Marshall were the 2014 recipients of the 84-year-old Oxford Cup. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
A total of 174 members (or 49 percent) of the class graduated with various forms of academic honors.
At the very top of the list were valedictorians Lewis Marshall and Laura Schimmel along with Salutatorian Abigail Hornung.
To Marshall, his academic success is the epitome of the American dream, which he described as going to a new land with equal opportunities in order to make a better life.
His family could have stayed in Wales, but his father decided to be a "risk-taker" and come to the United States.
"A lot of hard work later and here I am, a boy from a mining town in south Wales, valedictorian of an American high school," Marshall said.
To Schimmel, being valedictorian is both the culmination and validation of her efforts both in and out of the classroom.
"It means a lot, after all this time, for all this hard work to finally pay off," she said. "It's been a lot of hard work, but it's been fun."
When they weren't busy with their studies, Marshall and Schimmel were active in many of the high school's clubs and sports.
Schimmel was a member of the robotics team, diving team, National Honor Society (NHS) and Quiz Bowl.
"My involvement with these activities is what has made my high school experience so memorable," she said.
Marshall participated in swimming, NHS, marching band, the robotics team, Link Leaders and Quiz Bowl. He's also an Eagle Scout.
Schimmel will attend Michigan Technological University in Houghton. She plans to study mechanical engineering.
"Eventually, I want to work with alternative energy sources," she said.
To help finance her college career, Schimmel's received approximately $10,000 in scholarships including one from the Society of Women Engineers.
Marshall will also be attending Michigan Tech to major in materials science and engineering and minor in nanotechnology.
He plans to pursue a doctorate in the former subject.
He's interested in creating, developing and implementing new technologies and ideas in the world, specifically with regard to alternative energy sources, such as solar and nuclear power, and space exploration.
"Mars, to me, seems like a great place to go," Marshall said.
Both Marshall and Schimmel offered the Class of 2014 some sage advice.
"If these have been the best four years of your life, keep doing what you're doing and stay involved with your community wherever your future may take you," Schimmel said.
"If, on the other hand, these have been the worst four years of your life, which I certainly hope they haven't been, then take some time to reflect and try something new to make the next four years even better. You don't necessarily need to be the president of 19 clubs and activities, but if you can find one or two things that you're truly passionate about, you'll be that much happier."
"Wherever you travel from here, make the most out of each new opportunity as it presents itself," Marshall said. "Life is one opportunity after another and it's up to us to take those opportunities and make the most out of what we've been given.
"Strive to be the best that we can be at what we love to do – that I believe is the key to success and happiness. Enjoy what you do and do it well."
Rounding out the Class of 2014's Top 25 Scholars were Madisyn Barsanti, Danielle Black, Kaylee Blanchard, Megan Carson, Mackenzie Crosson, Sommer Desotell, Jessica Duronio, Kathryn Flanagan, Kristen Godwin, Michael Johnson, Adam Kemp, Katelyn Kessler, Kyla Kurczewski, Erica Krol, Molly Marks, Gabriel Paese, Samantha Pastewski, Marissa Ruehl, Alexander Schlueter, Tyler Scott, Caitlyn Ulinski and Elizabeth Wilkins.
Being valedictorian wasn't the only honor that Marshall received at commencement.
He was also named the 2014 winner of the coveted Oxford Cup along with fellow graduate Gabrielle Fallis.
Since 1930, the silver cup has 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.
Traditionally, only one student received the Oxford Cup, but that was changed in 2012, so now the honor is shared by one male student and one female student.
Selected by a vote of the junior and senior classes, along with OHS faculty, the winners must exhibit proficiency in scholarship, friendly social qualities, well-balanced physical development and superior school citizenship.
Marshall was honored, surprised and flattered to win the cup.
"I guess people have a high opinion of me," he said, attributing his win to his involvement in school and the fact that "I don't take myself too seriously."
A modest person, Marshall was more interested in praising the Class of 2014 than himself. He described his classmates as a "tight-knit group."
"We stand up for each other a lot, more so than I see at other schools and in other classes," he said. "Our class was really friendly (toward) each other. It was good to see the good side of people and how everyone gets along."
Fallis, who graduated Cum Laude, couldn't believe she won the prestigious Oxford Cup.
"I'm completely shocked," she said. "I'm just speechless. I feel really honored and blessed that people actually think that highly of me. I feel like I had an impact on people."
Fallis was accepted to Michigan State University and will begin her studies there next spring. Until then, she will continue her education at Oakland Community College.
She's interested in pursuing a career in either fashion marketing or design.
During her OHS career, Fallis played volleyball and was a member of NHS, Bully Busters and Link Crew.
"I feel like those clubs and sports really got me closer to a ton of students," she said. "They helped me be more outgoing and (taught me to) try to care more for people . . . If you're more open to people and more outgoing, then people will feel less stressed and that's always good."
"I'm going to miss Oxford," Fallis added. "I really made great memories here."
Her favorite part of high school was the pep assemblies.
"I always had fun doing those," Fallis 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.