JACKSON TWP — After an emotional, standing-room-only ceremony, Seneca Valley's seventh and eighth grade Middle School took on its new name, memorializing an American hero and Seneca Valley alumnus.
The family of Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer pulled down the curtain Thursday from above the front entrance to the school, revealing the shiny, new lettering: Ryan Gloyer Middle School.
Gloyer, a Green Beret, was killed Nov. 3, 2016, while fighting enemy forces in Kunduz, Afghanistan. He was a 2000 Seneca Valley graduate.
“You don't have to be a soldier to be a hero,” said Justin Gloyer, Ryan's brother, as he addressed the auditorium full of middle school students. “You can be a teacher, a plumber, a police officer, a scientist or a parent. To be like Ryan, all you have to do is put in the work every day. Listen to your heart and care more about those around you than you do yourself.”
All students from the middle school, about 1,200 seventh and eighth graders, attended the ceremony wearing white T-shirts that bore the new name of their school. On the back were the words “We remember” with a photo of Ryan in military gear.
The hope in renaming the school is not only to honor Ryan Gloyer's life that was cut short, but also to have the preteen and teenage students learn from his legacy as a soldier, a teacher and as a student.
Ryan's parents, two brothers and sister-in-law spoke during the ceremony, sharing memories of their beloved son and brother. He was a dedicated and serious soldier who also loved Harry Potter, “Lord of the Rings” and break dancing.
He was an athlete, teacher and mentor who loved camping, history, hunting, playing video games and karaoke, said Renie Gloyer, Ryan's mother. While he was known for being gregarious and inclusive, when the family moved to Seneca Valley during his seventh grade year, he was a shy young man, she said.
In addition to Ryan Gloyer's immediate family, members of the 10th Special Forces Group team who served with him in Afghanistan and fellow soldiers from the 82nd Airborne traveled to Jackson Township for the ceremony.
Although the name change will not be official until July 1, the start of the 2018-19 school year, the private ceremony was held while students were still in school so they could participate. This is the first time in the district's history that a school building has been named after an individual.
Each of Ryan Gloyer's family members thanked the student committee that proposed the name change to the school board and district administration. Ryan Burglund, Nate Konieczka, Jenna Pollaci and Jess Pollaci, all Seneca Valley graduates now, formed a group shortly after Ryan Gloyer's death in an effort to find the best way to honor the fallen Seneca Valley alumnus.
“We took this on so that you and those that come after you can learn from Ryan's legacy, to be selfless, be inclusive, to be unafraid to be yourself, to persevere through life's challenges,” Konieczka said to the middle school students.
The school board voted unanimously to rename the school in February and additionally directed the school administration to develop an educational program covering Ryan Gloyer's life and create a memorial in the school to honor him and any other Seneca Valley graduate who makes the ultimate sacrifice.
A video shown during the ceremony highlighted various facets of Ryan's personality: photos of him as a bearded soldier in military fatigues, a photo of him reading a book to a child, photos of him grinning ear to ear with friends and family.
It also included a video recorded in 2005 for Dayna Buckley's class of fourth grade students at the Greenville Elementary that Ryan student taught while he was at Thiel College. After graduating from Thiel in 2004 with degrees in psychology and early education, he enlisted in the Army.
The students had written letters to Ryan while he was in basic training, so he recorded a video to thank them and give words of encouragement.
“Continue to work hard in school ... Don't get too discouraged right now. You still have plenty of time to achieve anything that you want to do if you put your mind to it. Always give 100 percent. You never know what you can accomplish,” Ryan Gloyer said in the video.
More information about Gloyer's life can be found at www.svsd.net/gloyer.