Celebrating the Class of 2016

Celebrating the Class of 2016
Posted on 05/30/2016
This is the image for the news article titled Celebrating the Class of 2016East confetti  West confetti

The sea of confetti at Xavier University’s Cintas Center was a fitting way to celebrate the end of last week’s ceremonies for the 1,220 graduates of Lakota East and Lakota West high schools. 

During the commencement ceremonies, several graduates addressed their peers and the thousands of family and friends there to support them. They reflected on their high school experiences and talked about the future.

Each school’s valedictorian shared very different insights and advice with their fellow graduates.

At Lakota West’s ceremony Thursday night, valedictorian Nick Zahneis took his peers and the audience on a humorous journey as they traveled through elementary school, junior high, and high school. The journey included Crocs, Aeropostale, awkward school dances, joining their first school sports and wearing the Lakota name with pride, popular songs, and finding true friends. Through the years, Nick said that things were constantly changing around them but there was always one thing that they could count on to stay the same: "chicken nugget Tuesday."
Nick said that West’s Class of 2016 has also changed a great deal since the beginning, but still embraces the core values they were taught in elementary school: respect, compassion and responsibility. He concluded by saying the time they had at Lakota was an adventure and, as they gathered for the last time, they were ready to start a new one.

On Friday night, Lakota East valedictorian Phoebe Tremper began her speech this way: “Nothing is as liberating as the act of letting go of who other people think you are. In that moment you become the most genuine version of yourself that exists--and it is exhilarating.”

Phoebe discovered this for herself at a week-long government camp last summer, and her wish for her classmates was to find that same freedom. She encouraged them to find some part of life that brings a feeling of contentedness regardless of what is expected or what others might say… to be excited about where you are, right now, and to be alive in the moment. “No matter what this entails, no matter what the sacrifices may be, no matter how far you may have to wander, go find what it is that makes you genuinely excited to be here.”

Lakota’s Top Students Deliver Speeches, Advice for Younger Students
Lakota’s valedictorians and salutatorians are taking much more than a high GPA with them as they leave Lakota to go on to college. Over the past four years, they’ve learned both academic and life lessons, some of which they shared during their speeches at commencement. Here's a little background on the Class of 2016's top students.

Lakota East salutatorian Chris Pitaniello will be attending Purdue University in the fall to pursue a degree in engineering.
Chris has shown a quiet dedication to his academic studies, says Principal Suzanna Davis. Through his commitment to a rigorous academic program as well his involvement with the instrumental music program, Chris has been persistent in his pursuits of excellence. His attention to detail is evident in all that he does.

While in high school, Chris was a member of the percussion section of the marching band, and took part in the Procter & Gamble engineering internship. Chris said that the experience at P&G really opened up his mind to the different types of engineering, and he looks forward to applying his love of math and the sciences to solve real world problems in the engineering field. He credits Lakota with providing him with lots of interesting opportunities, and encourages younger students to use their high school experience to make connections. Another piece of advice: it’s important to take it easy and to not get too stressed – just do the best you can.

Lakota East valedictorian Phoebe Tremper plans to attend The Ohio State University and will most likely go into a field that is biology-related. She likes the sciences and feels that the excellent programs at OSU will give her the opportunity to explore a number of fields. During high school, Phoebe was in Mu Alpha Theta (math honors society), the National Honor Society and served as a yearbook editor. “I think the best advice for younger students is to strive for success because it is what YOU want – it goes much farther that way.” 

Principal Davis feels that Phoebe Tremper embodies academic achievement. Through her commitment to her studies to her involvement in the instrumental music program, Phoebe approaches everything she does with a quiet confidence, leading by example.

Annika Yardy, salutatorian at Lakota West, is going to McMaster University in Ontario. Annika will be part of a unique program at McMaster where she will graduate in five years certified as both a chemical and biomedical engineer.

While at Lakota, Annika has participated in band, the National Honor Society and peer counseling. She states that her teachers have been phenomenal because their expertise in the fields, along with their welcoming nature, have helped her excel. Her advice to younger students: Don’t be afraid to ask questions of peers and teachers. “Annika could often be found meeting with her teachers before and after school in order to enhance her understanding of classroom content,” said Principal Elgin Card. “She serves as an exemplary representative of Lakota West’s commitment to academic achievement.”

Lakota West valedictorian Nick Zahneis will be attending the University of Maryland to study chemical engineering. Nick began in Lakota as a preschooler, and over the last 14 years, he credits Lakota for providing him with opportunities for enrichment both inside and outside of the classroom. He has been on the leadership team for the peer counseling group, played tennis, served as treasurer for the National Honor Society and worked on a district-wide book drive. As a junior, he participated in the P&G Internship Program, and the experience helped Nick zero in on engineering as his career choice.

Nick’s advice to incoming freshmen: Be well-balanced in your activities (both inside and outside of school) and remember that grades in your freshman year count as much as those in your senior year. Principal Card states that “Nick’s teachers speak highly of him not only for his academic achievements, but for his ability to lead and help others. He was a very involved young man and is a fine representative of the all-around students we have at Lakota West.”

Fast Facts about the Class of 2016

1,220: Total graduates
(616 - East, 604 - West)

97 percent: Graduation rate

82.4 percent:  Attending a 2- or 4-year college or university this fall.

35: Graduates serving their country in a branch of the armed forces.

23 percent: Earning an Honors diploma, signifying they maintained a 3.5 average GPA and earned a 27 or higher on the ACT, among other academic qualifiers.

$19.7 million: Scholarships for the pursuit of higher education.


To view Facebook albums of the graduation ceremonies,
click on the links below.

Lakota East's Graduation
Lakota West's Graduation

Congratulations to the Class of 2016!