Speakers share their wisdom at Brooke’s 49th commencement

SHARING EXPERIENCE — Raquel Spencer, a 2005 graduate of Brooke High School who works in the White House, returned to her alma mater to offer advice to the school's class of 2018. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — The speakers for Brooke High School’s 49th-annual commencement Thursday shared the wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt, Rocky Balboa and others, including their own, with members of the Class of 2018.

As guest speaker, Raquel Spencer, assistant general counsel for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, encouraged the class members to consider the event’s importance, taking note of everyone around them.

“It will be over before you know it,” she cautioned.

Spencer said the emotions of her own commencement cloud her memory of the speech she delivered as one of the program’s student speakers.

But she said one piece of advice remains with her: “Every passing moment is a chance to turn it all around.”

Spencer told the graduates not to be anxious if they don’t know what they will become in the future and to be aware that even if they do, their plans will likely evolve and change.

She said at her own graduation, she hadn’t envisioned assuming a role that involved legal matters pertaining to federal health care programs, public health and government-wide appropriations and budget issues.

She said her own success, which included serving as an attorney and presidential management fellow with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was attained in steps and the same will be true for them.

Spencer encouraged the grads to be optimistic, spending less time worrying and more helping others in ways that also are satisfying to them.

She encouraged the graduates to do something small for themselves each day and suggested, to the surprise of many, “Watch ‘The X-Files,'”

Spencer said the paranormal investigations of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully teach that “when the easiest thing is to do nothing, do what is hard and while doing it, seek the truth.”

The students also heard from Kristen Breen, a senior honors student, who noted she and her classmates will be charged with taking responsibility for themselves and their lives. Breen told her peers by acknowledging their mistakes, they can learn from them and build trust with others.

Valedictorian Ashley Eby told her classmates making sacrifices “is an investment, the necessary capital to make tomorrow’s dreams occur.”

She added they should be prepared to adapt their dreams as needed. Eby said though she has been accepted to Yale, fulfilling a longtime dream of attending an Ivy League school, she has decided her true dream is to continue her studies in West Virginia.

Valedictorian Mason Zopp noted Eleanor Roosevelt said, “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

Zopp said he and his peers will face many choices and will make some wrong ones but will learn from them.

Honors student Matt Harvey said responsibility for one’s actions comes with maturity. Personal attacks on a person or thing will get a person nowhere; instead he or she should seek solutions to a conflict or problem, he said.

Honors student Sophia Perrone quoted Sylvester Stallone’s character of Rocky Balboa, who said: “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

She noted the Rev. Martin Luther King said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Tim Pannett, the school’s principal, took time to remember two classmates not present for graduation: Hannah Collins of Wellsburg and Hannah Mozingo of Follansbee, who each proudly displayed their uniqueness.

Pannett said Collins, who died at age 13 from complications of epilepsy, was known for her quirky and dramatic behavior and her caring nature. She was in the Wellsburg Middle School choir.

He noted many won’t forget the natural gas explosion that took the life of 13-year-old Hannah Mozingo, a pupil at Follansbee Middle School, adding those who knew her won’t forget her beautiful smile and her diverse interests in dance, cheerleading and outdoor recreation, including hunting and riding all-terrain vehicles.

Pannett said while the Hannahs weren’t present, their spirits were represented by two chairs decorated with balloons.

Also participating in the commencement were: students Andrew Dillie, who read “The Power of One;” and Colin Heilman, who read, “I Tried to Climb the Mountain Today;” and Sydney Burns, who offered closing comments.