PORTAGE | A hot sun beat down as the Portage High School Class of 2012 strode onto the football field for commencement ceremonies Sunday.
With the temperature above 90, many family members and friends wore hats and carried bottles of water as they waved and yelled to graduates sporting red and white robes.
David and Page Molnar, parents of graduate Rachel Molnar, stood near the fence surrounding the field as they waited for the program to begin.
Page Molnar held a single red rose which she planned to give to her daughter.
“We're so proud of her,” David Molnar said. “It's been a lot of hard work for all of us.”
Rachel Molnar has been on the A/B honor roll since she was a freshman, and her grades didn't drop even when she took a part-time job at Subway restaurant, her father said.
He said his daughter is artistically inclined and may pursue a future in that area.
“We've been encouraging her to do what she loves,” David Molnar said.
Principal Caren Swickard welcomed the crowd and introduced speakers, including salutatorian Zachary Lundy and valedictorian Joshua Sullivan.
Lundy encouraged his classmates to be respectful of others, thankful and forgiving, and to try new things. But he said his most vital piece of advice was to “simply love your life. We need to cherish every moment.”
He ended with a quote from Dr. Seuss.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who'll decide where you go.”
Sullivan said the day was all about legacy and encouraged graduates to leave a positive one as they go through life.
He honored members of his class who were planning to join the military after graduation and members of the audience who were serving in the military or had served, by asking them to stand.
“These men and women will create or have created a legacy this nation depends on,” Sullivan said.
Among those standing was Korean War veteran Joe Franczak, 80, who had come to watch his great-grandson, Zac Spurlock, graduate.
Franczak was accompanied by Spurlock's older sister, Krystal Taylor.
“I'm a little teary eyed,” Taylor said after the speeches.
She was especially touched when the graduates were told they would want to come back to high school.
“Life was so much easier back then,” she said.