Skyline seniors recall principal’s wise words

Max Bieryla, left, and Samantha Santmyers, both 17, are top students of the Skyline High School's class of 2015 and will graduate with 227 other seniors at the 9 a.m. ceremony today. Josette Keelor/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline High School seniors Max Bieryla and Samantha Santmyers, both 17, have a reminder for their classmates when they graduate at today’s commencement ceremony.

Focus on the choices you make, because they shape the world tomorrow — a phrase often repeated by outgoing Principal Andrew Keller.

Max said these words have succeeded in making their mark on many Skyline students.

“I think everyone really likes hearing that,” he said. “It’s definitely true, especially if it’s repeated.”

Said Samantha, “It’s really sad to see him go, and he’s been such an inspiration to the students here.”

Named among the school’s 10 graduates with distinguished honors recognized for having a 4.0 or higher grade point average, Samantha and Max are glad they followed Keller’s advice and didn’t squander grades in their freshman year as they might have done.

For the top 10, Max said, “The friendly competition is what allows us to excel as well. We’re all friends and we all like each other, but it’s just nice to have a challenge.”

Samantha agreed, “It’s always been about who can do better. … It’s like we were battling out toward the end who was going to be the highest.”

At 9 a.m. today, 229 seniors will graduate at a ceremony in the school gym.

Speakers will include Keller, Student Council President Rebecca Schuster and Class President Jasmyne Robinson. Additionally, 40 honor graduates will be recognized for GPAs of 3.5-3.99.

Asked about her thoughts on graduation, Samantha was enthusiastic.

“Graduation is actually on my birthday, so it’s an exciting day for me,” she said.

As for Max, “I’m just ready to move on … and kind of go into the next phase. I think graduation is a good way to mark all the work we’ve done in high school, but I think what’s really going to count, at least for me, is what we do in college.”

Max plans to major in acoustical engineering and musical composition at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, where his twin brother Ben plans to focus more on the acoustical side.

Though Max played baritone in the school band, he said he will pursue percussion at college.

A coffee shop barista and Boy Scout, Max was in the school Interact Club and a member of the marching band, concert band, jazz band and Pilgrim drum and bugle corps at Front Royal United Methodist Church.

Samantha played varsity volleyball, basketball and softball. She’s in the National Honor Society and was president of the Key Club. As president of the Friends of Rachel, she promoted anti-bullying events and organized Kindness Week each year in March in remembrance of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. The club promotes the message of the national nonprofit Rachel’s Challenge.

At Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, Samantha plans to play Division 2 softball and eventually become an orthopedic surgeon, though she’s still deciding between a degree in math or biology.

“I would really just like to be able to help people while staying near sports,” she said.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

Skyline High School Graduation
• Ceremony will be held at Skyline High School, 151 Skyline Vista Drive, Front Royal, at 9 a.m. today in the school gym
• 229 seniors will receive diplomas.
• Commencement speakers will be Principal Andrew Keller, Student Council President Rebecca Schuster and Class President Jasmyne Robinson.