Life-defining moment

2014-06-05T20:50:00Z 2014-06-05T21:39:12Z Life-defining momentSusan O’Leary Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 05, 2014 8:50 pm  • 

CHESTERTON | “Define your life,” was the sage guidance offered by commencement speaker and science teacher Dan Paff at the Chesterton High School Class of 2014 commencement ceremonies Thursday evening.

As the sun descended in the western sky, more than 500 members of the Class of 2014 filed in the football stadium and faced their families and friends in the stands.

In his address, Paff, a science teacher at the school, cited his March 2014 diagnosis and ongoing treatment for Stage 3 colon cancer as evidence of the “unpredictability of life.”

Paff said the experience was a “source of great pain and suffering,” but he used it as “an opportunity to learn and grow,” and he encouraged the students to do the same with adversities in their lives.

“For some of you, life will be a relatively smooth sail on calm seas,” said Paff. “For others ... there will be times when the seas roar and the boat will rock. I’ve been on that same boat on rough seas.”

Three lessons the students should embrace, said Paff, are hard work, gratefulness and optimism.

“Be thankful and count your blessings,” said Paff. “Acknowledge the effort of others along the way. “Make a conscious decision to tackle adversities with a positive attitude."

Three friends who are looking forward to the next phase of their lives are Mitchell Winey, Taryn Trusty and Aaron Whitaker.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Winey, president of the senior class and student council, and a member of the soccer team. “Our sports teams were a lot of fun and helped me make friends and learn teamwork for life.”

Winey, who is graduating with academic honors, will attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.

“The military just seemed like something different and interesting and fun,” said Winey.

Aaron Whitaker heads to the University of Michigan on a swimming scholarship.

“This is bittersweet, said Whitaker. “It’s weird that this is actually happening. It’s crazy that we’re all leaving and going our separate ways.”

Trusty will attend the University of Alabama and major in mechanical engineering, then move on to law school to become a patent lawyer, something she’s wanted to do since seventh grade.

“Chesterton is a great school,” said Trusty, who graduated in the top 5 percent of her class. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

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