SALINEVILLE - With a turn of the tassel, 14 seniors became the latest graduates of the Utica Shale Academy.
Southern Local High School hosted the second-annual commencement ceremony last week.
Academy Director Eric Sampson welcomed guests, calling the occasion a brief moment in time that for graduates was years in the making.
"As I was thinking about this evening and these students and the journeys they have taken to get here, I was reminded of a famous poem," he said, quoting a line from Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." 'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.'
"Graduates, all of you have been faced with the decision of which path to choose in life. Some of you go left, some of you go right, while others make a trail through the forest. Regardless of which path you have chosen, you've all ended up at the same place. Here today, ending this journey, beginning anew. I must say, I am proud of all of you, and congratulations."
Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, was the speaker. She congratulated the graduates and said they had an opportunity to join an amazing venture that helps people near and far.
"You should certainly be proud of yourself for accomplishing this goal," Reda added, as she recognized families for their support. "Graduation is just one of those steps in life that defines a coming of age. You may be a leader, you may be a doer ... but you will make an impact. The future can be extremely exciting and very scary, too."
Reda said life may not always be what people plan and there may be battles along the way, but true success is defined by how they handle those times.
"It's a tough world out there and nothing is handed to you. You have to earn it, and when you earn it you feel better because you earned it and it wasn't handed to you."
Reda described the oil and gas industry as a close-knit family of dedicated and hard workers who can face long hours and something different each day. She said there are a variety of careers available, from truck drivers to machinists and seismologists, and at the end of the day they can say they applied scientific methods to extract natural resources from the earth.
"We want to make a difference in the life of our family, we want to make a difference in our community, we want to make a difference in our country, and we want to make a difference around the world," she noted. "If oil and gas is your career, you are part of one of the most advanced careers out there and that touches many lives. You certainly have taken key steps forward. It is hard work, but you have spent months training with new skill sets."
Sixteen seniors earned diplomas, and Sampson and USA Board President Mike Biasi presented them.
Graduates are Taylor Ballard, Josef Gibson, Christian Gillespie, Wesley Householder, Charlie Knight, Austin Lemasters, Jaqulen May, Brandi McCall, James Miller, Katherine Oates, Gabriel Richards, Anthony Scalise, Makayla Nicole Spicer and Tylor Thompson.
Mark Furda, superintendent, made closing remarks and recognized the board members and partners. He also credited Brian Logue, representative of Express Energy LLC and member of USA's advisory council, for sharing his expertise with the students.