The 83rd and final graduating class of Lew Wallace STEM Academy received their diplomas on Wednesday at the Genesis Convention Center. With the final day of classes at the school taking place Thursday, 101 graduates made history as part of the final graduating class.
Class valedictorian Nevia Buford urged all the graduates to strive to be the best, offering ten steps four surviving the future. They included “be happy,” “believe in yourself,” remember all the names and faces from Lew Wallace” and “always say please and thank you.”
“That will all take you far in life,” she said.
Salutatorian Richard Span also gave a fiery speech, which had many of the graduates’ family and friends in attendance on their feet.
“Lew Wallace has had its ups and downs, but it is home and we made it,” he said.
The class was inspired by Attorney Carl Jones, who delivered the commencement address urging graduates to not accept the status quo.
“Sometimes you have to step up and right the wrongs in society,” said Jones, a 1986 graduate of Lew Wallace High School.
“My generation addressed the unfair standards in the Rodney King case, and for you the Trayvon Martin case should be a rallying cry,” he told the group.
Jones also stressed “overcoming obstacles,” noting that his father, a “steel worker with a fifth grade education” and his mother, a homemaker, did.
“The fact that you are sitting here today means you have had to overcome things and you should be proud of that,” he said. “You are from Gary, which means you will always be the underdog. As the underdog, when you accomplish things, it will feel that much better. If my parents overcame it, then I can, and if I can, then you can.”
The class motto for the final graduating class at Lew Wallace is “The Legacy of 2014” - which is fitting since the group has put an exclamation mark on decades of history Lew Wallace alumni are proud of.
The school’s principal, Clifton Gooden, presented the class before Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt accepted them as graduates. Gooden told the group to be careful in terms of who they associate with.
“If you hang around nine broke people, you are going to be the 10th, just like if you hang around nine fools, you are going to be the 10th,” he said.