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Highlands Celebrates 51st Annual Commencement

Photo credits: Jennifer Goldberg, Sean Dicer, Dawn Karadeema


Highlands High School celebrated the Senior Class of 2019 at the 51st Annual Commencement Ceremony on a beautiful, mildly warm Friday evening, June 7, 2019 at 6:00pm in Golden Rams Stadium.


The HHS Concert Band, under the direction of Mr. Matthew Beresik, started the traditional ceremony with the familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” as the members of the Highlands High School Class of 2019 marched into the stadium.  The Pledge of Allegiance was delivered by senior class treasurer Miss Mekenzie Elizabeth Heinle, followed by the Invocation given by her twin sister, senior class secretary Miss Madalyn Elaine Heinle. High School Principals Mr. Charles B. Mort and Mr. Shawn M. Bennis introduced the guests on the stage and welcomed those in attendance.


Participating in her first Highlands Commencement, new Superintendent Dr. Monique Mawhinney delivered a heartfelt message to the seniors and invited guest speaker, Pennsylvania State Senator Lindsey M. Williams, to the podium to say a few words to the Class of 2019.


Class president Mr. Matthew John Spears presented the Class Gift, a donation to the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches.  Following the presentation, Miss Marissa Marie Callender was officially recognized as the Class of 2019 Valedictorian. She plans to attend Allegheny College to pursue a degree in biochemistry and minor in Spanish and global health studies. Mr. James Michael Duncan was announced as the SalutatorianHe will attend the University of Pittsburgh to study computer science. School Board Vice President Mrs. Michelle Peters accepted the books chosen by Miss Callender and Mr. Duncan that will be placed in the High School library in their honor. Both seniors gave moving, emotional speeches of gratitude and appreciation for the Highlands community, teachers, family and friends in their lives.


Also recognized in memoriam with a moment of silence was classmate Elijah D. Bussotti, who passed away in October. A senior-signed, framed photo of Eli and a rose with a white ribbon were placed on a chair behind the last row of seniors on the field.


Under the direction of Mr. Michael Zeiler, the HHS Choir senior members sang Avril Lavigne's inspirational song, “Keep Holding On”.  Miss Larkin Olivia Richards, Miss Emily Ann Crawford and Miss Marissa Marie Callender were selected to deliver the traditional Commencement Address entitled, Our Journey: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. The trio presented an account the Class of 2019's past and present school journey and looked ahead to their future. 


After the Address, Mr. Bennis certified that the members of the Class of 2019 met all requirements for graduation, Superintendent Dr. Monique Mawhinney accepted the class for graduation, and School Board president Mrs. Debbie Beale confirmed the granting of diplomas to the 174 members of the senior class.


The ceremony concluded with the Benediction by senior class vice president Miss Alyssa McDaniel, the Alma Mater by the HHS Honors Choir, and the validation of graduates by Dr. Mawhinney. The graduates moved their tassels on their caps to the left, over their hearts, followed by the traditional cap-throwing into the air!


The Highlands High School Class of 2019 comprised 174 seniors. In a self-reported student survey of 143 seniors, 73% are pursuing post-secondary education (college, nursing/medical, trade school); 12% have an apprenticeship or employment; 1% are going into the military; and 14% are undecided. 





Commencement Program: List of Graduates and Scholarships, Honors and Awards


View the 51st Commencement ceremony on the Highlands YouTube Channel:

Senior Class Sponsors: Mrs. Sherry Armstrong & Mrs. Melinda Eckenrod