Chuck Brooks' column:
Like the coach who practices and practices all pre-season so the players are ready for the big game at the start of the regular season.
Like the director who rehearses his/her cast for weeks upon weeks so he/she can place on stage the best product possible for opening night.
Like the teacher who works night and day to try to prepare the student for that moment when the school pushes the student out of the tree and says, “Goodbye and best wishes for a successful life.”
So it is. Graduation is upon us. It’s time to watch the fruits of our labors walk across the platform as they end this phase of their lives. It can be a poignant moment.
I’ve worked every graduation since I arrived here 32 years ago. I always feel compelled to attend the ceremony since I like to feel I played a role in the lives of some of these people for at least three months of their stay at RHS. For most, I’d like to be there to say goodbye and wish them well in their future. I suppose you might say it’s my closure each and every year.
Wanna hear the story about the final hours at RHS for seniors prior to the day of their graduation? I thought so. Over the years, those final hours have been altered numerous times.
Before I arrived, our school used to have a senior banquet in the evening of the last day for the seniors. It was always the night before finals. Not the brightest approach. In my first year, I heard they could no longer trust the seniors to celebrate the end of this phase of their life because students chose to drink prior to dinner, so a new plan was created. That’s when yours truly came on the scene. The “Senior Breakfast” was born.
The seniors’ last day continued to be the last day of instruction prior to finals. That evening, students from the graduating class would have organized their own celebration, often on someone’s farmland. Many students didn’t even sleep. The next morning, they would return to the student center at RHS and be treated to continental breakfast and entertainment, topped off by my slide show. I had taken pictures all year of them as well as used middle school slides that had been given to me of each class. They’d then go to the gym and have their rehearsal and after, leave. It was a challenge for all involved. After a couple years of kids coming in all muddy from the night before, some still not 100 percent coherent and many overly rowdy, the school had the wisdom to make yet another modification to this event.
The next phase was to move rehearsal to the afternoon of the final day of instruction where the seniors would miss sixth and seventh hours to come to the gym to walk through the various portions of the ceremony, and then the “Class Bests” presentations followed by the slide show and an ice cream social was added. I did a slide show for each graduating class for well over 20 years. I would hand over those slides to the officers so, if they would be in charge of reunions, they’d have the slides and the cassette tape with the “soundtrack” I had recorded for the presentation for subsequent reunions.
Finally, the district wised up and allowed graduation to occur the Saturday before the final week of school. Truthfully, the graduating class is a distraction to the underclassmen at this stage. They’ve mentally checked out. Who can blame them? Now, the seniors are in school until the Friday before graduation. That afternoon, during their final two hours of the day, we do the rehearsal in the gym followed by Class Bests and then an ice cream social sponsored by my student council. It makes for a nice final bonding moment before graduation. They’re off to the parking lot before the buses come to take away the remainder of the school.
Graduation night comes, and I think I’ve missed one or two of the 32 that have occurred in my tenure. I enjoy working the night. The kids gather in the Performing Arts Center and Ms. Budde gets them ready to leave that room for either the gym or the football field, depending on the weather. The smiles and tears are plentiful.
So ends another school year. Next year, graduation will have added significance for me.
Why? Stay tuned. For now, I better run. Don’t wanna miss saying goodbye to the Class of 2014!