Life after high school
117 THS seniors graduate
Graduate Janelle McCoy's message to her fellow classmates was tri-fold.
"I believe in miracles," McCoy sang, as she welcomed her classmates, and their friends and relatives to Saturday night's graduation ceremonies for the Tonganoxie High School Class of 2003.
"Time does fly when you're having a good time."
McCoy, in an animated, yet thoughtful, speech, told her classmates that she had affixed two presents for each of them under their chairs: Kansas maps and plastic spoons. She also had hoped to include hand-held mirrors, to remind classmates they are all beautiful and to encourage them to reflect on their time at THS, but she said she couldn't find enough for the class, which was 117-strong.
The maps, she said, would help the graduates of THS find their way home.
"As we embrace a new life, don't forget the old one," she said.
And the plastic spoons served up encouragement to grads to sample all life has to offer.
"Try everything on your plate," McCoy advised. "Don't be afraid to try new things. Be spontaneous."
Music was an integral element of the outdoor ceremony at Beatty Field. Seniors Emily Putthoff and Ariel Dowdle sang a stunning duet, which earned a standing ovation from their classmates. And the Chieftain Singers, a select choir that included several graduating seniors, performed "Maybe Someday."
Principal Mike Bogart recognized Tonganoxie's three foreign-exchange students: Ina Brondbo, from Norway; Konrad Haeublein, from Germany; and Jhoanna Romero, from Ecuador.
The principal said Brondbo had told him her favorite thing about Tonganoxie was the warm weather, while Romero thought the cool weather was the best. Haeublein, on the other hand, told the principal that the schools were perhaps better than in Germany.
"We have good weather and great schools here in Kansas, and we have international expertise to back that up," Bogart quipped.
The ceremonies also focused on the academic accomplishments of the graduating seniors -- and there were many.
Andrew Becker was named class valedictorian, and Kelly Woelk was named salutatorian, based on their grade-point averages and test scores.
Becker, in his valedictory address, reminded his classmates that they share a bond because they grew up together.
"I would like to thank all of you for putting up with me and giving me the past 13 wonderful years," he said.
Becker, who plans to attend the University of Kansas and major in chemical engineering, also thanked the school district staff members who cared about students, and he noted the many positive influences of families and religion for the class.
And then he turned to the future.
"All of us here have completed a task set before us at a very young age," Becker said. "We have created the foundation of our future, and it is my contention that we have built a strong foundation while at THS.
"The present is what creates the future; so remember, as you wake up tomorrow, if you even fall asleep tonight, that the choices and actions you make today are what will create the conditions of the future. Whether it is to trade school, college, the military or directly into the workforce, the next weeks and months will be the first taste of our future lives, lives created by our present actions."
Becker added: "And finally, let's all remember Dale."
After the applause died down, Bogart queried Becker. "Who's Dale?"
While Becker spiced up the conclusion of his speech, other members of the Class of 2003 spiced up the graduation ceremonies by fashioning their sashes into ties, attaching pinwheels or writing messages on their mortarboards.
Jordan McCarty displayed her artistic talent on her white mortarboard by including a flower and peace symbol, along with her name and class.
As the ceremony drew to a close, graduates dug deep in their pockets and pulled out cans of Silly String. They waited with anticipation as Bogart proclaimed the commencement over.
And then the celebrating began in earnest.