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Woodland Hills Celebrates The Class of 2023


WHHS grads toss their caps into the air
Andrew Chiappazzi

Congratulations to the Woodland Hills High School Class of 2023! This year's class was celebrated during commencement on Thursday, June 1. The Woodland Hills School District wishes you the best of luck!

Congratulations to the Woodland Hills High School Class of 2023! This year's class was celebrated during commencement on Thursday, June 1. The Woodland Hills School District wishes you the best of luck!

The anticipation was simply too much to bear. Before the Woodland Hills Class of 2023 could be officially presented to the audience for graduation, cheers rose to a crescendo and hats flew into the air. Before long, a classic "Double-U, Double-O, D-Y" chant broke out amongst the latest Woodland Hills graduates.

Woodland Hills' annual commencement ceremony was a full-on celebration. Held in the high school soccer stadium on Thursday, June 1, the program celebrated a class that received over $7.1 million in scholarships to colleges and universities throughout the country.

Co-Principal Mrs. Shelly Manns lauded the seniors for their refusal to accept defeat in the face of a series of challenges.

"I am proud of the fortitude you have exhibited, not just in your academic pursuits, but in every aspect of your lives," she said. "You have learned that setbacks are not roadblocks, but mere detours that redirect you toward greater accomplishments."

Co-Principal Mr. Berchman Grinage shared some of the future destinations of the Class of 2023, including a number of schools throughout Pennsylvania, as well as Ivy League and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Mr. Grinage noted that 34 of the students attending college are first generation college students.

Along with celebrating the graduates in attendance, Woodland Hills recognized the late Brandon Barclay, who would have graduated with the Class of 2023. His diploma was accepted by Ms. Heather Bigney on behalf of the family.

Ryan Powers, president of the National Honor Society, said that amidst his classmates' academic pursuits, they also found something more.

"We learned a love for our community that can't be taught in other places," he said. "Wherever it was, somewhere we learned a sense of pride that is unique to Woodland Hills."

Black Student Union and Men of Valor mentor Talib Bracey encouraged his classmates to become the best version of themselves. Quoting Malcolm X, Bracey said, "Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Class president Abigail Mroz shared the numerous challenges the Class of 2023 has had to endure, from a gutted school building deep in a renovation process when they entered as freshmen, to the uncertainties and constant disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, to the individual challenges many faced.

"If you come back and visit, hopefully you'll have new things to share and new things to see," Mroz said. "Whatever your reason is for coming back, or just remembering Woody, remember the love we felt here and the school that grew with you."

Dr. Castagna noted that Woodland Hills and the Class of 2023 are a microcosm of what the world is made up of. The Class of 2023 is preparing for jobs that don't yet exist, as technology advances faster and faster. For that reason, Dr. Castagna said, the world needs the Woodland Hills Class of 2023.

"We need your experiences. We need your strength. We need your grit. And most importantly, every student following behind you today needs your example. You are where they strive to be," he said.

Mr. Carlton Scott, president of the Woodland Hills Board of School Directors, welcomed the Class of 2023 into a vast network that is willing and able to help them through the next stages of their lives.

"As a district, our goal is to ensure that you stay connected with us," he said. "Administrators, board members, teachers, staff - we all have a stake in helping you achieve your postgraduate goals."

Student council president Moriyah Chancey introduced commencement speaker Mr. Thomas W. Dinkins, Jr. A Woodland Hills alum, Mr. Dinkins is a senior relationship manager with UNCF, a philanthropic organization that works to fund scholarships for 37 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Mr. Dinkins shared his perspective on leadership and the picture of success, and he encouraged the Class of 2023 to pursue their dreams even in the face of doubt.

"There is not a person in this stadium or in this country that is qualified to tell who you are, what you can be, what you can't be. They are not qualified," he said. "Nothing can beat a passionate, committed mind."

WHHS grads toss their caps into the air