A Brave goodbye
May 23, 2008
Kindergarten teachers in costume, a Billy Joel impersonation, an eighty-name poem, tears of joy and sorrow and "purple dresses:" The North Summit High School Class of 2008 offered everything but the typical commencement ceremony.
The comic relief arrived early during the graduation ceremonies at North Summit last Thursday as the ceremony was prefaced with early-childhood photos of the students. The near-capacity crowd of parents and family members that filled the high school auditorium got a few giggles out of the frequently embarrassing photos, but the clamor of the audience quieted as the graduating class began their procession onto the stage.
The purple-robed seniors entered the auditorium from both sides and marched to their seats on the stage using perfectly syncopated steps. Most students wore class medallions and some sported National Honor Society sashes. Beneath their robes they wore everything from old skate shoes to polished pumps.
Ashlin Olsen, Valedictorian, took the podium as the first speaker. Her speech discussed the merits of being a North Summit Brave and the traits that her fellow students have, and should, aspire towards. She said, "a true Brave is a friend to all," and "a true Brave is built upon their family."
Next to the podium, Chase Black, Salutatorian, crossed off a checklist of items that he and his fellow students have learned over the years. He even illustrated the list by doing his best impersonation of his mother getting him up before school, shrill voice and all. He said, "the Class of 2008 is prepared because we have all been rudely awakened."
After concluding his speech, Chase took a seat at the grand piano in the corner of the stage and performed a cover of Billy Joel’s "Piano Man" with lyrics appropriate to graduation. "It’s 7:45 on a Thursday," he began and stopped to confirm the time with his principal. Chase also paused from time to time to launch his sheet music into the seats.
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As impressive as Black’s lyrical stylings were, Kaylie Hook, Aaron Beenfield and Stephen Dearden somehow managed to write a poem that included the name of every single student in the graduating class. They tagged those students with a rhyme and-a-not-so-complimentary one-liner. Some students were described as hairy while others were accused of frequently dating sophomores.
The audience got a real dose of risqué humor moments later when the graduation speakers, Linda Garfield and Marybeth Judd took the stage. Dressed as ladies much older than their genuine ages in regalia most appropriate to the 1950s, Garfield and Judd waddled onto the stage holding their canes and squabbling with each other in senile voices.
"For Pete’s sake, did I hear them say high school graduation," they said when they reached the podium; they thought they had been called to their retirement ceremony. As kindergarten teachers, they continued, "we brought these kids into this school 12 years ago and it’s only fair we’re here when they kick ’em out."
They also tooted their own horns a little bit as they claimed that, "every one of life’s great lessons are learned in kindergarten." You should always, "share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, flush and wash your hands before you eat." Most importantly, they said, "hold hands and stick together as you go out into the world."
On their way off the stage, Judd and Garfield made the entire graduating class join them in song. "Our work is done. It’s time to say goodbye until another day."
Although, Judd and Garfield threw a few barbs at the school supervisors seated to their left as they spoke, when North Summit High School Principal Jerre Holmes took the stage he could only say: "I will respond for the entire administration when I say that we are speechless."
His mood, however, grew more somber when he announced the names of two students who would receive honorary diplomas. Both passed away during their high school years. Holmes had tears well up in his eyes as he read the names of Justen Hale and Joseph B. Hunter, both former students of his and one an athlete he coached. Hale’s parents took his diploma in his stead and the entire audience stood to applaud them.
Holmes moved on to say goodbye to the entire class saying that although he has seen many students come and go, the hallways never sound the same again. "You will take your sounds with you," he concluded.
Finally, in front of their parents and loved ones, the Class of 2008 stood and received their diplomas before they flooded into the hallways and auditorium to receive hugs and kisses for their years of hard work.