Oxford graduates 406

Oxford Cup winners for the Class of 2023, Zander Brown and Aubrey Greenfield with Oxford High School principal Dacia Beazley. Photo by D. Rush

Duong is Valedictorian; Brown, Greenfield win Oxford Cub

By Don Rush

It was a perfect evening for a send off. Last Thursday the Pine Knob amphitheater in Clarkston was filled with as much pomp and circumstance it could hold, all with an Oxford flare. Oxford High School graduated 406 students with Michael Duong as Valedictorian and Kyle DiMalanta as Salutatorian. Aubrey Greenwood and Zander Brown won the coveted Oxford Cup.

(According to an article in the June 24, 1932 Oxford Leader, the Oxford Cup was presented to the high school by the class of 1904. It is awarded annually to that senior in the upper half of their class in scholarship who has shown the best all around development. Today, both girls and boys are voted on by staff, the junior and senior classes, they must have attended OHS at least three years and be in the top third of their class academically.)

As family and friends of the graduates filled the amphitheater, the Oxford High School jazz band and Wind Ensemble performed. Graduating Senior Troy Zeiter, Jr., sang the old Frank Sinatra standard, My Way. Senior Kaylee Feiner sang the Star Spangled Banner.

Much of the speeches given that evening by both students and staff focused on the Class of 2023’s dedication and perseverance. All graduates were given special gold and blue honor cords to wear for the evening in recognition of what the class endured, the pandemic and school shooting of 2021. Some students also wore orange cords showing their support to the gun violence prevention movement. A special tribute and moment of silence was given in memory of Daphne Beethem and Tate Myre.

OHS principal Dacia Beazley led the evening’s proceedings and introduced speakers.

School Board President Dan D’Alessandro told the audience in part, “Graduates, this will be your last time to gather as your senior class. When you leave tonight you will be alumni. On behalf of the board of education, I want to say how proud we are of the resiliency you have exhibited during your high school years. You not only endured the pandemic, but an unimaginable tragedy as well. Yet somehow you pushed forward and completed the requirements to earn your diplomas. I would also like to extend a special welcome to high school administrators and staff. You have educated, nurtured, laughed with, cried with and loved these graduates through very difficult times. As much as tonight is about their hard work and perseverance, it is also a reflection of all your hard work and dedication you have poured into this group of graduates . . . and finally to the graduates, follow your dreams wherever they take you, but remember, Oxford will always welcome you home.”

Superintendent Dr. Vickie Maravitch said, “It is an honor for me to be here with this amazing graduating class tonight. I didn’t dream five months ago that I would be here with you on this graduation evening and this wonderful celebration . . . as you have heard others, unlike the others (graduates across the country) you have done so despite having to face the tragedy beyond words. You have done so as you have grieved for those not with us here tonight. Your hearts, your perseverance, your fortitude has moved you forward to the accomplishment we are celebrating tonight. It will be that heart, that perseverance and that fortitude that will move you forward in your life’s journey, and for that Oxford High School Class of 2023 you will always be in our hearts and our wishes will be you wherever you go. Godspeed.”

Senior Logan Blankenship delivered a speech to his classmates. Blankenship plans to study psychology and forensics at Rochester University, and hopes to one day serve as a forensic psychologist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He recalled his high school journey as one with ups and then way downs. “I had a ‘why me’ mentality. It was about everything being wrong in my life. I started middle school with this mindset, struggling to get through. I was an awkward and freaked out mess and subpar student who received Cs and Ds. I wasn’t happy with that and my parents weren’t. In 6th, 7th, and 8th grade my go to thought was ‘why me?’ . . . at the end of middle school I remember the speech Mrs. Beazley gave . . . and it left me wanting to do more, I had a deep feeling in the pit of my stomach of not being all that I could have been . . . In high school I wanted to have more initiative, put myself out there, meet more people . . . I was getting there. I started my sophomore year with a new found sense of enthusiasm . . . I got to make more friends and get to know more teachers . . . and then school shut down for the pandemic. Why me? I was knocked down again, but I was hopeful. I told myself my junior year would be different. And, it was. It single-handedly put me in the worst spot of my entire life. I became resentful . . . I was overcome with the most intense ‘Why Me’ feelings I ever had. But, that didn’t feel right. It was a selfish thought. It wasn’t about me. It was about us . . . I came to the realization, life isn’t about the good or bad things that are bound to happen. It’s about the spaces in between when you meet people that share experiences with you, where you can heal together if needed. It’s not why me or why us, it’s just why? Think. What am I going to make of this? How am I going to react? I want to explain to you of the camaraderie that our grade has. I can walk up to anyone of you and have a conversation and we are completely on the same page . . . take this whole high school experience with you but don’t let it be you. Why you? Are you bringing resentment and sadness or hope and confidence . . . whatever you bring with you into the future, I hope the experiences of our class why to be the best you.”

Both Valedictorian and Salutatorian Duong and DiMalanta plan to attend the University of Michigan both studying engineering. “I would like to talk about change,” Duong said. “Something our class is all too familiar with. In our time at OHS, every year was different and abnormal. We not only experienced change but many of us were a part of it. Just recently some of us helped in the monumental change, like speaking at rallies, organizing protests and raising money to help others. It is change that propels us forward, it is how we grow and improve. It is how we solve problems and make the world a better place. With climate change, poverty, social injustice, food insecurity and gun violence, the world is in need of change.”

He told his classmates to remember to do the little things, to be positive and kind.

Beazley gave the night’s final speech. “Seniors, we are so proud of you. Honored to have been on this journey with you. We’ve loved watching you perform, compete, and excel. We know it hasn’t been easy for you, but we are so excited about your future because you have power to change lives, to inspire others and make a difference . . . you have made an impact on all of us at Oxford High School and the Oxford community. Be bold in your pursuits. Follow your passions. Be kind. Keep learning and dare to dream big.”


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