Kids of all ages inspire me. I guess that had something to do with honing 30 years in public education.
It also motivates me to help award scholarships at the end of each school year for the Holmes County Education Foundation if I can. This year my schedule was free. Once again I found myself seated with several other presenters facing the 2012 graduating class of West Holmes High School, Millersburg, Ohio.
Like the others who announced scholarship winners, my job was a simple one. I merely had to read off the names of the recipients of two different memorial scholarships of two of my very best friends in life. Prior to their deaths, Paul Sauerbrey and Helen Youngs had established the scholarships so that youngsters from future generations would be encouraged to further their education beyond high school. Over the years, the financial assistance has helped dozens and dozens of area students attend college or trade school.
I’m always impressed with how well behaved the graduating seniors are. For them, high school is over. They could be off celebrating. But on a beautiful late spring evening, most of the 179 seniors were on hand to accept a simple certificate awarding them their grant. In some cases, students earned more than one scholarship.
Unlike the caricatures too often portrayed about teens in the mainstream media, these young people are polite, thankful and eager to move forward with their lives wherever that may be. Sure, some of them wear flip-flops while others clop to the stage in high heels.
More creative, free-spirited graduates don expressive attire. One kid once came dressed in pajamas. Nevertheless, the students understand the significance of the situation. In many cases, like my two friends, the money is given in the memory of someone. Several are memorial scholarships named for loved ones who died tragically or unexpectedly.
Prior to announcing the scholarship recipients, I take the opportunity to inform the students about Mr. Sauerbrey and Ms. Youngs. Perhaps this is my teacher instinct still coming out.
Mr. Sauerbrey and Ms. Youngs each were persons who made a huge difference in life, not just for me, but also for the entire the community. I wanted to put some flesh and bones and spirit with the names of the scholarships. The students listened attentively.
Both Mr. Sauerbrey and Ms. Youngs were instrumental in the daily activity of Killbuck, Ohio, the village in which they lived most of their lives. Mr. Sauerbrey taught at the elementary school for most of his 43-year teaching career.
Ms. Youngs worked at Killbuck Savings Bank for 55 years. She also served as the town treasurer for 43 years, and loved to play the organ and sing in the choir at Killbuck Church of Christ.
Previous scholarship recipients have made a difference through their chosen careers. Some have become teachers, doctors, lawyers, bankers and mechanics while others operate their own businesses. Given the grace, respect and appreciation the 2012 graduates showed in accepting their scholarship awards, I expect they will succeed as well.
What really caught my attention though was the support and geniality that the graduating students showed to each other. They truly seemed to care for one another.
If that positive attitude persists in life, these graduates will likely make a difference whatever they do and wherever they land. Mr. Sauerbrey and Ms. Youngs would be very pleased indeed.