The Greensburg Community High School (GCHS) class of 2019 will never stop believing.

That much was proven true during Saturday’s commencement ceremony, which saw a record-setting eight valedictorians reminisce on the ups and downs (mostly ups) of their high school careers, send well-wishes to their classmates, honor their educators, and give thanks to their families, friends, and all who supported them on their journey.

So it may well have been appropriate that Journey’s classic “Don’t Stop Believin’” served as the class song. Their parents, caregivers, teachers, and many more believed in them from the very start, and perhaps just as importantly, the students believe in themselves.

They may be small town girls or (Tree) city boys, but the connection they share will lead them out into a world destined to be far from lonely, and it’s a place in which they’re bound to make an impact – in the Greensburg community and far beyond.

Numbers game

Senior Class President Bryce McCullough, who will head to Wabash College to study political science and international relations this fall, may one day find himself in the Oval Office, addressing his fellow Americans on matters of great importance. If that day comes, he’s already more than prepared.

McCullough began a humorous speech with the opening to his far future State of the Union address before detailing – in real numbers – the impact his class has made in only four short years.

“Graduates, for the past 12 years, nothing has been handed to us on a silver platter,” McCullough said, invoking a quote from comic book character Captain America. “Greensburg schools has only given us the hope and the opportunity to achieve.”

It was clear the students made the most of it.

As a whole, the class earned in excess of $3.7 million in scholarship awards, the seventh consecutive GCHS class to exceed $3 million.

“Without question, they have successfully continued the tradition of the academic excellence and achievement of Greensburg Community High School,” GCHS Principal Grant Peters said.

Extracurricular activities helped the students make their mark as well. McCullough cited a dance marathon that raised more than $7,000 for Riley Hospital for Children as just one example. They also built a memorial for four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients at South Park Cemetery, and the class’ Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Club earned Chapter of the Year honors two years in a row. The students also excelled in athletics and music, earning state honors and more.

Of the 162 graduates, 42 received both an academic and a technical honors diploma. Thirteen of the young men and women who took the stage at the 148th GCHS commencement ceremony will serve in the military.

Eight valedictorians

McCullough’s speech warmed up an already happy and receptive crowd, who heard from eight students who each earned a perfect 4.0 GPA. The record number of Pirates sharing that academic accomplishment also put their own spin on the valedictorian speech.

Molly Mangels briefly traded her mortar board for a hard hat and a “creative hat,” observing how it is teachers who are often the bedrock behind every student’s future career. It was a literal look at how educators figuratively “wear many hats.“ Mangels hopes to be a teacher as well someday. She plans to study secondary English education at Ball State University.

Kirsten Fong reflected on a Survivor-like calculus game – amid several other fond and often funny memories – and noted how it was an example of the class’ persistence.

“We have won the game of high school and have survived,” she said.

She reminded her classmates not only to “survive,” but also “to thrive,” while never forgetting to enjoy the journey of life. Fong will attend Purdue University where she will study speech, hearing and language sciences.

Kierra Cooney will head to Butler to study pharmacy this fall. She used her time on the stage to thank her parents and a bevy of educators for preparing her for that career.

“I’m standing here today because so many people helped me find my way, and to enjoy it as I went,” she said.

Morgan Winkler, Rachel Nobbe and Olivia Wilmer elected to speak together. Nobbe will study nursing at Marian University, while Wilmer will head to the University of Cincinnati to pursue a degree in communications sciences. Winkler will major in neuroscience at the University of Notre Dame.

The young women played a game of Mad Libs as the centerpiece of their speech, entertaining the audience with humorously bizarre responses in their graduation narration.

Regan Swango spoke of embracing change and adapting to new challenges, remembering how her first day of kindergarten differed so much from preschool that she decided she didn’t want to go back for a second day.

“I learned that dealing with changes is just a part of life,” she said.

Swango, like Cooney, will study pharmacy. She will be a University of Cincinnati classmate with Wilmer.

Mary West will study neuroscience at Indiana University. She credits her support system with getting her there.

“Our foundation is made of the people who have been there for us, and who will always be there for us: our family,” she said.

Class Salutatorian Trevor Foster took the stage to shake hands with Peters and received a loud ovation.

The journey begins

The support system of which West spoke was out in full force Saturday, loudly cheering on the graduates as their names were called, and even offering a standing ovation for the accomplished group of students.

Peters took time to thank the school district’s leaders and teachers, and noted how he and other staff envision success for the group of graduates.

“Don’t Stop Believin’” includes the lyrics “some will win, some will lose/some are born to the sing the blues.”

Peters reminded the students they’ve been prepared to win. As for singing the blues…well, that’s just out of the question.

“Individuals are always measured by how they respond to adversity and how they face challenges,” said Peters. “Make today the day that you don‘t stop believing, because we all believe in you.”

Former Daily News Editor Brent Brown may be contacted via this publication at news@greensburgdailynews.com.