BUCKHANNON - Scores of families and friends were able to see some surprises Friday while celebrating the Buckhannon-Upshur High School class of 2014 graduation at West Virginia Wesleyan College to congratulate and celebrate the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Class of 2014.
Among the highlights of the program was the keynote speaker, former West Virginia Governor and former President of the College Board Gaston Caperton, who addressed to the class and attendees, talking about his battle to overcome dyslexia in his youth.
"I was 8-years-old when my parents found out I couldn't read," Caperton said. "Some people said I was a lost cause, but if it weren't for my parents hard work and determination, I wouldn't be here today. To them, just because I couldn't read, didn't mean I couldn't learn."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Chad Clem
Former West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton speaks to the graduating class at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School graduation at the Rockefeller Center on the campus if West Virginia Wesleyan College on Friday.
Caperton said his parents sought out help from a special doctor who diagnosed him with dyslexia. From then on, Caperton said his parents worked with him extensively everyday. He said his father would sit him down and they would study 15 words from the dictionary everyday.
"School was always difficult for me, but it was harder because of my disability," Caperton continued. "Even today I struggle. If I were to come out and read this speech, seeing it only for the first time, it wouldn't be beautiful. I have read this speech many times aloud to the point that I am familiar with it and I know how it is supposed to sound. My dyslexia taught me that everyone has a struggle. And I've had to work hard everyday to prove myself. That's something that is true for everybody."
During terms in office, Caperton raised the average teacher salary in West Virginia from 49th in the nation to 31st. He launched one of the country's earliest and most comprehensive basic skills computer initiatives, and he invested more than $800 million into building, modernizing and improving school facilities throughout the state.
During his 13 years of leadership serving as its President, the College Board touched the lives of students in nearly 27,000 high schools and colleges, promoted the importance of writing by adding a writing section to the SAT and doubled the number of students succeeding in Advanced Placement.
His leadership also renewed the organization s focus on education in a globalized marketplace. He initiated a new series of AP world language and culture courses and embarked on an historic education exchange program with the Confucius Institute Headquarters in China. This initiative sends Chinese teachers to U.S. schools for one to three years, and sends delegations of U.S. educators to China to learn about its education system and culture.
Over more than 20 years in government and education, he has chaired the Democratic Governor s Association and the Southern Regional Education Board, participated in the Executive Committee of the National Governors Association, received ten honorary doctoral degrees and been presented with numerous awards, including the 2007 James Bryant Conant Award for his significant contributions to the quality of education in the United States and the 1996 Computerworld Smithsonian Award for his tireless efforts to introduce technology into the classroom. Most recently, Caperton was honored as the 2012 Policy Maker of the Year by the National Association of School Boards of
Two students spoke at the ceremony, including senior Julie Tenney, who talked about the importance of never letting someone tell you that you can t do something.
Tenney mentioned the struggles of historical and pop cultural figures like Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Dr. Seuss and Michael Jordan and how they were able to overcome adversity to accomplish great things.
"What made individuals like these successful was not that everyone always believed in them or they were blessed with more talent than all of us," Tenney said. "What made them successful was their desire to prove others wrong."
"The fact is we've seen several times how fragile life can be," she continued. "The memories of class members we have lost are still fresh in our minds. We aren't guaranteed tomorrow, so let's make the most of today. We aren't here by accident either. We were made to make a difference. We were born to make an impact. Once you know that the question becomes: what's holding you back?"
Sebastian Reger, also a senior, spoke about the importance of pursuing your passions, and how his passion is music.
"Music is my solace for when I am down and my voice for when I am celebrating," he said. "I could not thank my parents enough for introducing me to the single greatest invention of all time. Regardless of what your passion is, as I leave this high school, I wish for all of you to find your passion, and when you do, whether that is tomorrow, or was go, I wish for you to pursue it unconditionally and live it to the fullest. No matter where your dreams or passions carry you, you will always remember where it all began."
Reger concluded his speech by playing a brief rendition of Country Roads on his trumpet.
Upshur County Superintendent of Schools, Roy Wager, talked about the class accomplishments, including the $1.5 million in scholarships and awards that they have earned. Wager said 40 percent of the class, made up of approximately 230 students, was heading to a four-year college or university, 20 percent was going to attend a two-year technical school or training program, 5 percent was going to serve in the military and the remaining percentage of the class was heading directly into the workforce. Wager asked the students who had graduated from Fred Eberle Technical Center to stand and be recognized.
"Whatever you set out to do, do not give up; it s too easy to say I quit, " Wager said. "And for those heading out straight into the workforce, welcome to the real world and git-er done."