Talawanda Class of 2017 earns $5.5 million in scholarships

Talawanda’s 2017 graduating class was described by Principal Tom York as a class “it will be tough to say goodbye to.”

The 260 members of the class of 2017 will receive their diplomas in ceremonies Thursday at Millett Hall. With final exams still ahead of them this past week, the exact number of graduates was still uncertain and the board of education will hold a brief meeting prior to Thursday’s ceremony to give final approval to the graduate list.

Following the practice of recent years, the school held its Senior Awards Night program last week preceded by a special recognition of the Top Ten members of the class.

The principal praised this year’s class as they prepare for commencement night with a combined $5.5 million in scholarship offers.

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“It’s a wonderful group of kids. They have achieved a great deal. It’s always bittersweet to say good-bye to the seniors after forming close relationships with them but it is time for them to move on and commence the rest of their life,” York said.

He carries many good memories of the Class of 2017 including senior recognition events two days recently when the digital media class showed off a two-part video done as an investigative report, showing the school administrators to be alien reptiles from another planet.

“I decided to play along with them and went on Amazon to order a dragon suit,” he said, with a smile. “I went to the digital media class the next day in the dragon suit with doughnuts. Everybody wanted selfies with Mr. York the Dragon.”

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This year’s Top Ten graduates, based on academics, offer a wide range of interests and college plans. They are:

• Dakota Bailey-VanKuren (Stanford University to major in product design) who said she chose Stanford “because it will provide me with the opportunity to challenge myself academically as well as expose me to various new experiences and networks of people.”

• Jordan Chase (Ohio State University/art and technology) said he developed an interest in that major because, “I’ve always enjoyed art and I like to draw digitally in my spare time.”

• Emily Froude (Miami University/international studies) said of her favorite school memory, “I think the eighth-grade trip to Washington D.C. may be the most fun I have ever had at a school function. I got to spend time with some of my closest friends learning about America’s history in a city in which I hope one day to live and work.”

• Kelly Kline (Ohio State University/linguistics) said of the greatest impact on her education, “My cat, Sedona, who sits on my notebooks and chews on my pencils. A worthy foe,” and of personal qualities leading to success, “I’m curious, I like to research on my own. I’m lucky.”

• Gabriella Lindley (University of Dayton/sports management) said of her choice of a major, “I took sports entertainment my junior year and it sparked my interest. I’m really into business and sports, so it seems like the right fit.”

• Adam Mandrell (Ohio Northern University/pharmacy) cited his sister as an influence on academic success, saying, “My sister, Heather, who is a pharmacist and currently in medical school. Whenever I have needed assistance or looked for a role model, she has always been there for me.”

• Elizabeth Sawdai (Ohio State University/chemistry and French) said, “My favorite school memory is riding in the Homecoming Parade as a part of Homecoming Court my senior year. Yes, this is cliché. But it was always my dream to be on court to ride through the streets of Oxford in a neat, convertible car. It was the night of my life, waving and smiling to all of the people I knew—a small-town daydream.

• Dylan Shumway (Miami University/mechanical engineering) said of his choice of a major, “I have always loved the math and sciences throughout school so I knew I wanted to expand my education into a field that incorporated these interests. I also have always loved building things so mechanical engineering seemed like the way to go.”

• Olivia Tilton (Heidelberg University/political sciences and advocacy) made her college choice for several reasons, “I chose Heidelberg because it is a small liberal arts college that will provide me with a very individualized education with a plethora of opportunities. Not only will I be majoring in political sciences, I will also be majoring in advocacy—a unique major that I’ll be creating with the head of Heidelberg’s political sciences department. Creating my own major is something Heidelberg uniquely offered to me and helped me finalize my decision.”

• David Winkler (Denison University/financial economics) said he developed his interest in that major “Watching Shark Tank” and said of the greatest impact on his academic success, “My parents, for all their encouragement, help in studying for tests, telling me either to start on my homework or to stop doing homework for a while and being generally supportive of me in all my activities.”

As of Tuesday, members of the Class of 2017 have been offered scholarship money totaling $5,548,835. Some of that total includes multiple offers to various students and they will be able to use only some of the money based on their final college choices.

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York said members of the Class of 2017 have done well academically but also accepted the challenge to provide service.

“Two or three years ago, we started emphasizing relationships and service and this class instituted projects to help others,” York said. “They raised money to buy a service dog for a handicapped student; they raised money for Gatlinburg after the fire; they raised money for cancer research; they sent cards to service people overseas. They have been a wonderful group of kids.”

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