Class of 2013 moves on

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published June 11, 2013

 Athens High School 2013 grads attend graduation ceremonies at Oakland University June 8.

Athens High School 2013 grads attend graduation ceremonies at Oakland University June 8.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Teachers and giving back played a huge part in shaping the lives of the graduating class of 2013.

Mark Dziatczak, principal of Troy High School, described the graduating Class of 2013 as enthusiastic and confident about the opportunities before them.

“They have excelled in the classroom, activities, athletics and onstage,” he said.

He said that for the first time ever, commencement ceremonies featured four student speakers — more than ever before.

“The messages were so fantastic, we wanted to make sure as many speakers as possible had the opportunity,” he said. Students who wish to speak at commencement submit their speeches, and then a faculty team winnows the list to finalists, who audition for the faculty team, which makes the final selection.

He added that the Class of 2013 helped to propel the school to being ranked by Newsweek as the best traditional public high school in Michigan and by the Washington Post as the most challenging high school in Michigan. “Many, many students will attend state flagship institutions and very selective colleges and universities across the country, and (they) earned over $6.5 million in college scholarships,” Dziatczak said.

Troy High grad Eric Huang described the overall mood of the Class of 2013 as excited and confident. He founded the Economic Club at the school and performed in the school band.

He plans to attend the University of Michigan in the fall to major in engineering, and will visit family in China this summer. What stood out for him during his time at Troy High was “how supportive everyone is and was always willing to help.”

Troy High provided Huang with “a good sense of diversity and a sense of the real world.”

His advice to underclassmen is, “Don’t be afraid to try out anything that seems interesting. Freshman year is a time for exploration and discovery, and the next years, you learn how to develop that.” Also, he said to get started on the college application process during the summer before senior year because, “once school starts, it gets really hectic.”

Lara Dixon, principal of Athens High School, described the graduating Class of 2013 as individually talented and collectively impressive, and socially and civically minded.

The Athens Class of 2013 raised more than $41,000 for the Angels of Hope Charity during charity week this year.

“They are kind, humble, generous and purposeful,” Dixon said via email. 

“They challenged themselves in pursuit of their passions, extending their learning beyond our halls by participating in global economy debates, practicing with Doctors Without Borders and performing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra,” Dixon added.

“Red Hawks also supported over 20 fundraisers, organizations like Stick-it to Cancer, the canned food drive, Toys for Tots, Forgotten Harvest and Red Cross, to name a few. In their four years at Athens, they have collectively, with support of staff and the community, raised over half a million dollars in donations to others. In our building, they tutored each other during lunch, became links to help students with autism and even tutored elementary children after school,” Dixon said.

Athens grad Andrew Schoenbeck, who served as vice president of the Athens Student Congress, described the mood among his classmates as “fairly excited, celebratory and ready to accomplish and move forward with their lives.”

He plans to study at Wheaton College in Illinois in the fall and travel with a group of students to Spain this summer.

What stands out for him during his time at Athens is how welcoming and friendly everyone was.

He also advises his underclassmen to work hard and “try new things whenever you can.” He said he tackled a number of Advanced Placement classes. “I am very glad I did it, but it was tough,” he said.

Both Huang and Schoenbeck described the teachers as inspiring.

Athens grad Erica Sismet plans to attend the University of Michigan in fall to study engineering. She will travel to the East Coast this summer to visit family and will go hiking in northern Michigan with friends. She was most inspired by her two English teachers, Dan Mills and Adam Burns. Sismet said she is most proud of how much money her class collectively raised with the other classes for charity over the past four years. She spoke at the Athens Honors Convocation ceremony.

Her advice for underclassmen: “If you love what you do and you’re having fun, you’re going to be successful,” she said.

Marie Talarico, a Troy High grad, said that while the Class of 2013 is ready to move on, “we’re going to miss Troy High.”

She plans to attend U-M in the fall. What she’s most proud of is that while many students started their high school experience as “insulated from the world, most students found things outside of Troy, and outside their comfort zone, to be a better part of the world.”

Her advice to underclassmen is “find a middle ground. Be strong academically and go to a game and be social.”