Steven G. Thomakos advised the 409 newest graduates of Wheeling Park High School Sunday at WesBanco Arena all they need to succeed in life is to work hard towards a goal.
"Work is the reason I am here today," Thomakos, a WPHS graduate, said. "Graduates, I tell you, make work your habit. If you work hard at things, your ability to achieve things will increase exponentially. If there is anything I can impart upon you today, it's that you all have that ability. Use it."
Thomakos was named "Outstanding Alumnus" at the graduation ceremony. A member of the first winning WPHS speech team in the school's decades-long streak, Thomakos attributed his own success to his experiences at Wheeling Park High School.
Photo by Sarah Harmon/The Wheeling Park High School scholarship winners attend the school’s graduation ceremony at WesBanco Arena. Pictured in front row, from left, are Garrett Weigel, Malia Miller, Kaleigh Weithe, Riley Bresnahan, Paige Durkin and Blake Humphrey. Back row are Cecelia Jebbia, Emily Megna, Jordan Miller, Valedictorian Sierra Ciccone, Nicole Baron, Robert Gillette, Dalton Haas, Salutatorian Grant Robertson and Tanner Stephens.
"No one expected me to win anything ... Part of the reason was my family history," Thomakos said. "Speech and theater was my savior. Wheeling Park High School was my savior. Work ethic became my habit."
In her address, Valedictorian Sierra Ciccone told her fellow classmates she believes their class is full of potential and ready to face the world after graduation.
"Sitting before me today is a group of the most capable adults I know, ready to face the world and all the changes it possesses," Ciccone said. "Look how far each and everyone of us has come. High school has been a long adventure, but it has been an adventure full of amazing rewards. Each of us is here today to show the world what we are made of."
Ciccone, daughter of Patrick and Denise Ciccone, plans to attend West Virginia University in the fall to major in chemistry. She hopes to attend medical school and one day become a pediatrician.
Salutatorian Grant Robertson told his classmates he thought of the importance of taking risks and the benefits of failure upon graduating from high school.
"We cannot expect to achieve anything extraordinary without taking positive, calculated risks," Robertson said. "Taking risks provides challenges and opportunities that lead to new skills. Most importantly, take risks in order to find your true capabilities and not limit yourself to being average."
Robertson, son of Barbara and Roland Robertson, will be attending West Virginia University in the fall to study biomedical engineering and chemistry. He plans to conduct research on treatments for diseases.
Class Secretary Nick Wolfe and Treasurer Nathan Mauck announced the class of 2014 will donate the remainder of its budget toward funding a new computer lab for the school as the class gift.
The Phyllis A. Beneke Scholarship, established in memory of WPHS's second principal, was awarded to graduates Garrett Weigel and Malia Miller at the ceremony.
The Distinguished Scholars included Kaleigh Weithe, Riley Bresnahan, Paige Durkin and Blake Humphrey. The Outstanding Achievement Scholars included Cecelia Jebbia, Emily Megna, Jordan Miller and Sierra Ciccone.
In addition, the Patrick A. Clutter Scholarship was given to Nicole Baron, Robert Gillette and Dalton Haas. Grant Robertson received the J.T. Thomas Memorial Scholarship and Tanner Stephens earned the WPHS Alumni Scholarship.