Milton graduation

Students were relaxed and happy prior to Thursday’s commencement ceremony at the Milton Area High School. From left, Mason Fisher, Mekayla Schrock, Alyse Goodwin, Brianna Hulsizer and Lindsey Birdsall.

MILTON — “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”

That was a question Milton Area High School Class of 2019 valedictorian Callista Dyer posed to her 178 fellow classmates during Thursday’s commencement ceremony.

“Ever since that pretentious cartoon owl denied us the answer in that 1970s TV commercial, I have wondered, exactly how many licks does it take?” Dyer asked of the question she posed, which ran as a theme throughout her commencement address.

She noted that many people have tried to solve that problem.

“When I tried, I got 807,” Dyer said. “But after all this research and tedious counting, I realized that I was so fixated on how long it would take to get to the center, I failed to actually enjoy the lollipop.”

She noted that many students had been counting down to graduation day, but she wondered if they enjoyed their senior year.

“When you opened up this lollipop 13 years ago as a kindergartner, you weren’t focused on this day,” Dyer said. “You were excited for the learning and the field trips and the friends you would make. When did we stop enjoying the flavor?”

She added that the commencement ceremony would pass by “in the blink of an eye.”

“But don’t worry if these years felt rushed, you have many more Tootsie Pops ahead of you,” Dyer said. “Whether it be college, the workforce or the military, you will have another goal to strive for in your future.”

She encouraged her classmates to enjoy every moment of their lives.

“So how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” Dyer asked, as she concluded her remarks. “The world may never know, but that’s OK because your story is worth a lot more than its length.”

If her classmates were still curious about how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, Dyer encouraged them to look under the chairs they were seated on.

There, each class member found a Tootsie Pop.

“Wow, so this is what Oprah feels like,” Dyer joked, as the graduates discovered the lollipops under their chairs.

Joel Yoder, class salutatorian, noted that many of his fellow classmates had been looking forward to walking across the stage and accepting their diploma.

“More important than this moment or that little piece of paper that you are about to be handed... are all of the things that you have experienced within this high school,” he said. “It is what makes you you.”

Yoder encouraged his classmates to thank their teachers, faculty, parents and peers for the many lessons learned from them.

“I urge you to continue to practice the disciplines you learned in these walls as you go out into this world,” Yoder said. 

Like Yoder, class president Philip Davis II reflected on how his years at Milton shaped him as a person.

“In elementary school, we lived for recess,” he said. “We wanted to just play the days away having fun, but school was never terrible either.”

As middle school approached, Davis said life as a student got better.

“Middle school is where we started to find of figure out who we wanted to be around,” Davis said. “Some of us had our first girlfriend or boyfriend, or our first kiss.

“But school started to get a little more boring because, well, truth be told, we lost recess,” he joked. 

In middle school, Davis said many of the class members started playing sports.

“Playing these sports or participating in any of the clubs or groups offered to us... further solidified the friendships we were making and moments we will never forget,” he said.

As the high school years began, Davis said “life started to pick up for real.

“We started to define ourselves and, for most of us, school was kind of a drag that we couldn’t wait to end,” he said. “On our final night as students of Milton High School, it has ended and most of us, myself included, are feeling a huge sea of emotions.”

Davis urged his classmates to remember their graduation, and each day which led up to the evening.

“Remember the people you grew up with, and the place that let you grow up,” he said. “I will always be proud to say I grew up in Milton.”


Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email

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