Six valedictorians all attended former St. Joseph Central School

GETTING READY to graduate from their respective schools are these valedictorians who all attended the former St. Joseph Central School in Wolfhurst at children. From left are Sophie Kopyar, St. Clairsville High School; Julie Schlanz, St. John Central High School; and Lauren White, Bridgeport High School.

WOLFHURST — Among the thousands of Ohio Valley high school seniors who are graduating this month there are six who have something special in common.

They all attended the same elementary school as children — the former St. Joseph Central in Wolfhurst — and they all are valedictorians of their respective classes.

And here’s another extra special aspect of this story — four of those valedictorians all attend Bridgeport High School. The other two are at St. John Central and St. Clairsville high schools. Even more special: two of the Bridgeport seniors are siblings.

The soon-to-be graduates include siblings Angela Sommer and Jason Sommer, Lauren White and Noah Ricelli, all of Bridgeport High; Julie Schlanz of St. John Central; and Sophie Kopyar of St. Clairsville High.

Their former fourth-grade teacher, Annette Waiter, said they were a special group of students from the start.

“They are good kids, and they come from good families,” said Waiter, who now teaches at St. Mary’s School in Martins Ferry. “Everything they did, they did well. They wanted to do a good job.”

For example, their fourth grade class, she said, collected the most Pennies for Patients every year for five years while at “St. Joe.” The program was a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

They also enjoyed the annual Christmas show, leading prayer services, being readers and servers for Mass, the Tournament of Truth and spelling bees.

“One special performance that brought down the house was the annual talent show when the entire class danced to the Michael Jackson song ‘Thriller,'” Waiter said.

She added that the students loved to learn and were also very supportive of each other.

“St. Joseph Central may have given the students a great foundation, but they have gone forward and excelled in all their endeavors. So many have excelled in sports, their church and in the community. I am very proud of this group of young adults today. Each and every one of them have grown into caring, successful and loving individuals who will go out into the world and make this world a better place.”

Their former principal, Daniel Delande of Shadyside, said he knew early on that the group was special and was going to “produce greatness.”

“I am extremely proud of these six students and all they have accomplished in their high school career. It is pretty amazing that with a class size of less than 20 students that six of them are now valedictorians,” he said.

Delande, who was principal at the school for eight years, noted he is not surprised by their success because they had parents who also were dedicated, hard-working role models.

“Being a parent in a small parochial school, they helped out the school endlessly. Throughout the years, St. Joseph Central has a long history of talented individuals. I attribute a lot of this success to our family-like atmosphere that we had at the school,” Delande said. “I wish the best to the entire Class of 2019 and a special congratulations to our six valedictorians.”

Schlanz, daughter of Mike and Lisa Schlanz, is set to graduate from St. John Central High School on Saturday. She plans to attend Mount Union College to study biochemistry.

Kopyar, daughter of Tony and Tammy Kopyar, is set to graduate from St. Clairsville High School on Friday. She plans to attend Duquesne University, where she also will study biochemistry.

White, daughter of Randall and Jennifer White, is set to attend Muskingum College, where she will study to become a secondary math teacher.

Ricelli, son of Diana Ricelli, plans to attend Seton Hill, where he will study to become a physician assistant.

Jason and Angela Sommer are the children of Jay and Maria Sommer. Jason Sommer plans to study engineering at Ohio University, and Angela Sommer plans to attend Marietta College. She is undecided on a major.

Graduation from Bridgeport High School for White, Ricelli and the Sommer siblings is set for May 31.

St. Joe’s closed in 2011 because of declining enrollment and financial issues, according to newspaper reports from that time. It was established in 1912 and stayed in operation for 99 years.

A group of former St. Joe students, including four of the valedictorians, recently got together for a luncheon held at St. Anthony Church in Bridgeport, Waiter added.