PORTAGE | At least one 2014 Portage High School graduate won’t celebrate his graduation with an open house this summer.
Instead, Ryan Cummings left for boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego immediately after Sunday's ceremonies at the high school.
“My mom is driving me to Indianapolis tonight, tomorrow morning I’ll swear my final oath, and I’ll be in San Diego tomorrow afternoon, where it’s 72 degrees, all the time,” Cummings said.
Cummings and more than 600 other members of the Portage High School Class of 2014 were congratulated by Principal Caren Swickard, while friends and family huddled under blankets against unseasonably cool weather at the football field.
Swickard, who retires this year, encouraged students to enter the next chapter of their lives “with renewed vigor and enthusiasm,” and hailed the Portage community for its support of her 30-year career in the school system.
“I have loved every minute of it,” Swickard said. “It has been an honor, and I would like to say thank you to the community.”
In their remarks, valedictorian Matthew Bliss, salutatorian Joshua Lewis and Iniko Dixon, the class president, thanked administrators, teachers and their families and friends.
“None of us would be here today if it weren’t for all the people in attendance,” Lewis said.
Bliss marveled at the honor of addressing his class as its highest-ranking academic member, and admitted he is “a huge nerd.”
“I’m forever grateful to my parents for teaching me to be that way,” Bliss said.
Six years of training to be a physical therapist is Nicole Walton’s next step.
Walton posted a 195 average on the PHS varsity bowling team, and her success in the sport earned her a scholarship to Marian University in Indianapolis, and a slot on its bowling team.
“Graduating hasn’t really hit me yet,” Walton said. “High school was fun, and I think I learned how to get ready for life. But knowing I’m not going to see the same people again — I’m really sad.”
Cummings was among students entering the military that Swickard and the audience applauded.
“Thank you for your service to this great country,” Swickard said.
Cummings joined the Marines thanks to the examples set by his father, who is in the Air Force, and his grandfather, who served in Vietnam.
“He talked about it rarely, but when he did, his stories intrigued me,” Cummings said. “It inspired me to do it for my country and to give back to him.”
The past four years at Portage High were “a learning experience,” Cummings said.
“You make mistakes and learn from them and apply that to your adult life,” he said.