Commencement address? More pep talk

2014-06-06T09:18:00Z 2014-06-06T21:48:17Z Commencement address? More pep talkSusan O'Leary Times Correspondent
June 06, 2014 9:18 am  • 

VALPARAISO | Valparaiso High School seniors received the last pep talk of their prep careers from science teacher and varsity football and baseball head coach David Coyle, at the 140th commencement ceremony Friday evening.

More than 510 graduates and their family and friends listened as Coyle rallied them toward victory in life, yet encouraged them to “enjoy the moment.”

Knowing so many students are eager to leave home, Coyle warned that “with freedom comes responsibility.”

“This is the most exciting time in your life,” said Coyle. “The next four or five years determine what you’re going to do for the rest of your lives — it’s an awesome opportunity.”

Coyle urged the students to cherish and have pride in the Valparaiso community, one that provided more than $150,000 in scholarships to the class.

“This is a community that rallies behind its children,” said Coyle. “That’s a community. That’s what makes this place special.”

Football games and speech and debate meets are among Lena Barajas’s favorite memories of VHS.

Barajas, a National Honor Society member and senior class president, will attend Indiana University Northwest in the fall and major in biology with plans to move on to medical school.

Barajas said her father, a family physician, was instrumental in her decision.

“He started me on that track,” said Barajas. “I want to be an OB/GYN and help women.”

Fellow Japanese Club members Matt Battista and Autumn Venekamp said they will remember high school as “hectic” and “bittersweet.”

Venekamp, the club’s president, was especially proud of the group for winning a Japanese Olympiad at Indiana University in Bloomington this year.

“There were some really good moments and some really bad moments,” said Venekamp, who will be a Japanese and graphic design major at Ball State University in the fall. “I made a lot of really good friends I didn’t expect to make.”

Although he is undecided about a college and a major, Battista is thinking about attending a local university and majoring in linguistics.

He won’t miss the homework of high school, but now knows it served a purpose.

“When you were done with it, you had the satisfaction of a job well done,” said Battista. “It made you feel like you were moving up in life a little.”

Coyle wished the graduates happiness with a rousing conclusion to his speech.

“People, don’t ever shut doors, don’t quit, don’t ever give up — you battle!” said Coyle. “You are all well prepared. You are special. You are unique. You are from Valparaiso!”

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