A red rose bound with a purple ribbon rested on an empty chair at the graduation ceremony on Friday, in memory of Amber Lynne Martin.
Amber would have graduated along with her 240 classmates at Garden Spot High School in the Eastern Lancaster County School District. She died last September of astrocytoma — a cancer in the brain.
Her sister, Alecia Martin, accepted Amber’s diploma on her behalf. When Alecia walked to the stage to accept her big sister’s diploma, the gymnasium erupted in applause.
Amber’s story became national news last year. Worried she would not live to attend the school’s dance, 200 friends and family threw her a glitzy bash in January 2014 at Rick’s Place in Lancaster.
In his speech, Principal Mathew Sanger referenced the pastor who spoke at Amber’s service. The minister said there is a little dash that exists on each gravestone between the date of birth and date of death.
“The dash that is so small, and seemingly insignificant on a gravestone; yet, it holds the key to a thousand untold stories,” Sanger said.
After reading the poem “The Dash” by Linda Ellis, Sanger asked the students, “What are you going to do with your dash?”
James and Cheryl Killinger know the importance of that dash. Their son, Matthew, died in 2006 of leukemia. They said they were “thrilled” to attend the ceremony and see their first grandchild graduate from high school. Haley was 8 when her father died.
They visited the cemetery on their way to the high school.
“We know he’d be so proud of her,” James Killinger said.
Like all graduations, the air was rich with promise and the possibilities of the future. Graduates waved to their families as they entered. Parents strained to see their children.
Superintendent Robert Hollister looked to the stars to deliver his message of encouragement. He encouraged the students to explore and take risks.
Student speaker Francesca Artus spoke of the strong character Garden Spot Spartans possess.
“…we do our best because it’s unacceptable to do anything less,” she said.
Class President and Valedictorian Amy Huynh said, “Take this moment to check in with those around you, these drivers you’ve shared the road with for the past four years, and wish them a good journey.”
Graduates include Tayler Nichole Akers, Kelton Anthony Alenovitz, Hira Hayami Allen, Kianna Corrine Anderson, Katie Jeanelle Araya, Asna Ardae, John Michael Armstrong, Danielle Murlene Arnold, Francesca Joyce Artus, Jozafin Asencio, Alexis Nicole Ashby, Ginevra Cecile Babini, Mitchell Ryan Bair, Gary Jacob Barber, Jr., Benjamin Ellis Barrage and Alexandria Beth Bauder.
Austin Melvin Beiler, Dakota Heiland Benedict, Joseph Edmund Bockus, Alexi Renee Booth, Matthew Scott Bowman, Miguel Richard Bowman, Micah Daniel Boyer, Cameron Patrick Brennan, Kiana Nicole Brown, Rebekah Elaine Brown, Alyssa Marie Buhalo, David Tyler Canfield, Christopher Wilson Carreras and Annie Celicourt.
Zachary Paul Christie, Devon Michaela Christman, Kyle Robert Clark, Amber Michele Clifford, Max Biase Conger, Trey Matthew Copenhaver, Donald Leroy Crawford III, Anna Vladimirovna Danilyuk, Ethan Zachary Daugherty, Taylor Decanio, Timothy Hughin Demeritt, Kaitlyn Breana Devonshire, Jenna Nicole Diehl, Victoria Rose Doll, Cayla Anne Domonkos-Frontino, Nicole Elizabeth Donatelli, Michelle Ashley Dreis, Gavin Bryant Eberly, Rylan Witman Eberly, Miranda Lynne Eckert and Cody Salmon Elliott.
Arthur Dale Fairchild, Solomon Elijah Faust and Adam Brady Fellenbaum.
Quentin Patrick Fetterman, Holly Ann Finkey, William Joseph Finkey, Tyler Marie Firestine, Logan Avery Fisher, Kendra Ellen Fitz, Jessica Elizabeth Fuller, Abigail Grace Fulmer, Deidre Melita Galvin, Dylan John Gehr, Victoria Francesca Giurbino, Victor Martins Gomes, Mariah Lynn Good, David Vladimirovich Gortman, Brooke Nicole Gossert, Brynn Samantha Griffin, Lindsey Rae Groff, Kirsten Renee Hackenburg, Alexandria Elizabeth Harmon and Angela Marie Hatter.
Grace Olivia Heinsey, Willis Alexander Hershey, Wyatt Devon Hoffert, Eric Matthew Mark Hood, Jessica Joy Horning, Sierra Belle Horning, Jessica Ailene Horst, Jonathan David Horton, Cody Wyatt Hutson, Amy BaoTran Huynh, Julia Elizabeth Irvin, Carissa Marie Jones, Madeline Christine Jones, Theresa Marie Joson, Daniel Tyler Kauffman, Morgan Sarah Keretzman, Haley Marie Killinger, Calvin Michaels King, Dustin Ray King, Rebecca Danielle King and Steven James Kocher.
Ervy Jeansuly Labady, Valerie Diane Lapp, Benjamin Barton Laukhuff, Galen Benjamin Lehman, Tyler Michael Lehman, Tylor James Lupold, Michele Euginio Mapelli, Robert Reyes Mares, Alexandra Rose Martin, Amy Christine Martin, Blake Connor Martin, Dalton Jay Martin, Erica Marie Martin, Kobi Joel Martin, Mariah Elise Martin, Mitchell Brock Martin, Serena Joy Martin, Tonya Michelle Martin, Samuel James Mast, Cody James Mcconaghy, Nathan Patrick McConnell, Samuel Alan McFetridge and Sean Padraig McGeehan.
Scarlett Renee Means, Luke Elias Messner, Justin Michael Metz, Walker Shawn Metzger, Kelci Elizabeth Miley, Kory Matthew Montoro, Shuacua Moua, Nathan Jeffrey Moyer, Tye Brandon Moyer, Jake Michael Mueller, Morgan Ruth Mueller, Benjamin Andrew Myers, William Eli Neff, Dwight Ray Nolt, Katelyn Ann Nolt, Anthony Oberholtzer, Megan Ariel Olson, Tracy Lee Ortiz, David Alexander Osorio, Brock Charles Palmer, Kristen Nicole Parker, Shannon Lynn Parmer, Malik James Parsons, Brandie Lynn Patterson, Nyasia Li Perez, Courtney Paige Petersheim, Guy Harry Petit-Ton and Nuj Txeeg Pha.
Nathan Charles Phillips, Alex Corinne Piesnarski, Luke Zachariah Prokay, Taylor Paige Pullano, Shannon Elise Quillen, Rebecca Lynn Ratcliff, John Richard Redding, Zachary Ryan Reed, Vincent A Rice, Amanda Lynn Ritenour, Alisha Kim Robinson, Kyle Patrick Rodriguez, Ian James Roggie, Angela P Rogozin, Amanda Rosazza, Nicolas David Roskow, Jessica Allison Ruth, Kamila Ruzkova, Daniela Isel Santos, Bethany Nicole Sauder, Jacquelyn Morgan Sauder, Natalie Corinne Searle and Kelly Sue Seifrit.
Cody Michael Sellers, Connor M Sensenig, Megan Elizabeth Sensenig, Rebecca Lynn Sensenig, Roam Shah, Julie Therese Shupe, Austin James Sindall, Nathan Richard Slye, Eric Tyler Smith, Joseph Smith, Raymond Javier Soto Rivera, Emily Mae Spencer, Travis Scott Stauffer, Jeffrey Lee Stewart, Joshua Caleb Stoltzfus, Rosa Joy Stoltzfus, Timothy David Stoltzfus, Lester Allen Stover, Emily Jo Strothers, Royce Jenson Sweed, Ashley Brianne Sweigart, Juan Enrique Tamayo, Juana Juanita Tamayo, Hannah Jeanette Tennis and Mark Tlumach.
Elizabeth Angela Tognoli-Robinson, John Hung Tran, Nikolas Lee Ulmer, Mikayla Joy Umble, Hannah Marie Usner, Alyssa Janae Waite, Samantha Nicole Waldrop, Samantha Deborah Walsh, Juliana Nicole Wardle, Dora Rose Warfel, Derick Lee Weaver, Joshua Aaron Weaver, Wade Xavier Weaver, Wesley Jacob Weaver, Haley Nicole Weidner, Austin Maxwell Wenger and Colin Joshua Wenger.
Jessica Ann Werner, Robert Lee Wertz, Caleb Talbot Williams, Aaron Robert Windust, Jordan Derek Wissinger, Shazong Kalvin Yang, Ethan Timothy Yellak, Eric Yenikeyev, Ethan Michael Yoder, Mitchell Glenn Yoder, Catherine Barbara Yorgey, Freyman DeJesus Zavala Herrera, Angelika Joy Zeiset, Bret Andrew Zeiset, Renae Marie Zeiset, Chad Allen Zimmerman, Jessica Ann Zimmerman, Nadine Faith Zimmerman, William Thomas Zimmerman