A class described as “the perfect puzzle” by RHS 2009 Class President Lisa Thompson assembled one last time on Spartan Field yesterday. Eighty-nine of the 103 graduates filed onto the field for the 126th commencement of Richmond High School. The grads were greeted by spectators who filled the home team bleachers to capacity.
One special graduate, Dr. Ray Gill, was given an honorary high school diploma for his lifetime of work and funding of scholastic education. Dr. Gill, one of the largest farmers in Ray County, completed only eight years of formal education and left school in 1934. His message to the seniors was short and sweet: “ Good luck. If I can do it, so can you.”
Social studies teacher Steve Hitchcock told graduates that things “important to someone you love, should be important to you.”
“They’re here because of you, to see someone they know walk across the stage.” Hitchcock advised students to set their own standards, learn who to seek advice and answer to yourself and for yourself.
Thompson’s address to her class reflected of their years together and of the “people who you know best.” Thompson said the Class of 2009 avoided divisiveness, and found a way for “band geeks,” jocks, “social butterflies,” and brains to come together to create a “perfect puzzle.”
“We leave a part of it and ourselves behind,” she said.
Applause, cheers and the occasional air horn denoted each graduate’s name as they filed across the stage to receive their diplomas.
Ten valedictorians were recognized. In order, they were: Blake Simmons, Erica McFarland, Samantha Nollker, Rachel Brewer, Lisa Thompson, Alex Luntsford, Brady Roberts, Alexandra Rickart, Whitney Marten and Olivia Adkinson. The Top 4 seniors recognized were: Coleen Estes in English, Lisa Thompson in social studies, Erica McFarland in math and Blake Simmons in science.
Retiring Music Director Erik Pointer lead the RHS Symphonic Wind Band in a moving rendition of “Celtic Festival,” and then onto Alma Mater for RHS.
Graduates’ hats took flight to signify the passage of the Richmond High School Class of 2009.
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In Hardin, nearby streets, small groups of community, family and friends began to fill the gymnasium yesterday after. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have painted a more nostalgic picture of small-town life in a rural community.
The Hardin-Central High School Band played “Highland Overture” and “At the Crossroads” prior to the familiar and stirring “Pomp and Circumstance,” which marked the entrance of the graduates.
Entering by twos, the seniors were visibly filled with emotions as they entered the gym, walked to center court and turned toward the stage. The young men wore the familiar and formal black, one of Hardin’s colors while the young ladies stepped away from the HCHS orange and wore white caps and gowns. Once all14 were onstage and seated, the welcome message was given by Senior Class President Brooke Derstler.
“We were always close friends. We didn’t split up at lunch like other classes,” said Brooke, who went on to share her classmates’ memories through the years of ‘marrying on the playground’ and other funny stories that drew laughter and head bobbing from her class.
Hardin-Central Principal Dean Hays was the keynote speaker. He encouraged them to remember how they got to this moment and not just where they are now.
Senior Brianne McGuire sang the Beatles’ tune, “Blackbird.” A line in the chorus summed up the reason for the celebration, “You were only waiting for this moment to arise.” These seniors have prepared for 12 years, for this moment in the spotlight and their accomplishments were many.
A slide show featured each senior, beginning as a very young child and showing several photos through the years before becoming a senior. Music from the slide show included such lines as, “These have been my best years and I’m not going to cry.” But, there were several that found themselves wiping away a tear or two. The slide show was just another of the special bonuses one gets when attending a small school where schoolmates are more like family, if they aren’t already.
Russell Clodfelter, counselor, and Principal Hays presented many awards to the class. (Watch for the Tuesday edition of The Daily News for the scholarships/awards recipients for Hardin-Central and Richmond.)
Superintendent Steve Andes announced each senior’s name as they made the journey across the front of the stage to receive their diploma from Hardin-Central School Board President Kyle Foster.
The newly graduated Class of 2009 entered the gym walking next to a friend and classmate. In a touching exit, the each grad left with their parents. Each mother carried a salmon-colored rose, presented to them by their child. The color was, of course, symbolic of the Hardin-Central orange. A myriad of emotions were seen as grads and parents walked together. They lined up at the end of the gym, for a resounding round of applause from those present.
All together, and without a visible cue, black and white caps were thrown into the air and cheers erupted from grads and families. There were hugs all around, and then the crowd surged from the stands to congratulate the graduates.
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“We’re done,” 2009 Orrick Class President Joe Kaufman told his fellow graduates and the hundreds of friends and family members that packed the Orrick Gymnasium Sunday Afternoon.
Kaufman didn’t sound relieved but yet like a senior coming to the realization that they were leaving something behind with only memories and lessons learned to take with them.
Kaufman spoke to the underclassmen in attendance and urged them not to take for granted their four years at Orrick High School. He said if he could go back and do it again he would – and he would try harder.
Class Valedictorian Donald Merriman sent a message to his fellow classmates that finishing high school is just the beginning and that success is measured by hard work and integrity and not by money, fame and power.
Business Education instructor Victoria Clymore was chosen by the class to give a comment. Clymore told the class that the faculty’s wonders of the graduates go beyond the classroom and often the pathways that will be chosen are speculated.
“Your future is not something that happens to you,” Clymore said. “It’s something you create.”
After diplomas were handed out and the class was presented graduates threw their caps in the air and showered each other in silly string which drew a laugh from the crowd and Principal Brock Dover.
Photo: RHS graduating senior Cody Henry is embraced by vice principal Martin Griffin after receiving his diploma yesterday at Richmond High School’s graduation at Spartan Stadium. (Photo by JoEllen Black/The Daily News)