On a perfect day, Bald Eagle Area celebrates ‘crossing the finish line’

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Students line up to receive their diplomas during graduation ceremonies at Bald Eagle Area High School on Saturday.



WINGATE — Under a sun-splashed sky, Bald Eagle Area’s Class of 2019 received their diplomas at Alumni Stadium as Saturday morning turned into Saturday afternoon.

A total of 131 graduated in a touching ceremony that featured excellent music, moving speeches and lots of hugs and high fives.

Prior to the ceremony, students filled the gymnasium as they prepared for the walk to the football field. Some took photos while others adjusted their caps and gowns.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Bald Eagle Area seniors sit patiently as they wait for their names to be called at graduation ceremonies on Saturday.

One teacher, Jenn Houser, dabbed tears from her eyes. Houser was posing for photos with her former kindergarten students. This would be the first group of students she would watch graduate.

Needless to say, it was an emotional day for her.

“It was my first contracted position, in kindergarten,” Houser explained. “I’m a little emotional. I was just looking at pictures from when I had them in class. I used to be the tallest one in the group. They look a lot different now.”

After photos, she hugged them and wished them luck.

“They’re great kids,” said Houser, who teaches kindergarten at Port Matilda Elementary. “They’re going to do amazing things.”

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Senior class adviser Danielle Heverly gives Bald Eagle Area seniors final instructions prior to Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

That seemed to be the theme of the day.

At the start of the ceremony, senior class president Cameron Cody addressed the capacity crowd and his fellow students.

“Whether you are going to college, the military or into the workforce, continue to grow your entire life,” he said. “That is not to say we should not cherish the memories we have created here. Rather, we should continue to create memories that rival and hopefully surpass these moments.”

Class of 2019 valedictorian Jakob Ream said that those receiving diplomas had a lot to be proud of.

“It’s not about how fast you run. It’s about crossing the finish line,” Ream said. “If you are seated here today, then you have indeed crossed the finish line.”

BEA salutatorian Katherine Haagen talked about respect in all aspects of life.

“Respect has been a dominant theme in our education here at BEA,” she said. “It has been one of the core rules we follow. People say respect must be earned. But to get respect, you must first give it. Treat others with the decency you want to be treated with and give others the benefit of the doubt.”

On this day, Bald Eagle Area invited the Class of 1969 back to enjoy the ceremony. A member of that class, Tom Rodkey, was the guest speaker.

The Class of 1969 will be celebrating its 50th class reunion this year. Rodkey said that inviting former classes back is a special tradition at BEA.

“I don’t know of any other school that keeps this tradition,” he said. “Good traditions should always continue. Even though we are 50 years apart, we share traditions of BEA.”

Rodkey talked about the first Eagle mascots.

“I was the second year mascot. I wore a gray jumpsuit with yellow wings and a tossel cap,” Rodkey joked.

BEA superintendent Jeffrey Miles addressed the graduates and their families to put a bow on the day.

“To the Class of 2019, we say thank you for your commitment and dedication, thank you for the respect you demonstrated every day, thank you for your compassion and empathy toward your fellow classmates,” he said. “Finally, thank you for sharing your wonderful journey as you prepare to write another chapter of your life.”