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Class of 2009: Thank you and good bye

It's the last day of school. About half of Rosemount High School's senior class is gathered in the banquet room at the Rosemount Community Center. Alice Cooper's "School's Out" is blaring over a stereo system at the front of the room. And there's a stuffed duck flying through the air.

Welcome to the end of your high school career, seniors.

This particular gathering is a bit of an experiment at RHS. Every year the school welcomes its freshmen with something it calls its respect retreat -- an opportunity for all of the students making the move to high school to get to know each other and understand how they'll be expected to behave over the next four years.

This year, Youth Frontiers, the group that puts on that respect retreat called administrator Tim Conboy and offered to bring its end-of-senior-year program to RHS free of charge. The deal was too good to pass up.

So, after graduation practice Tuesday morning, students either walked or drove the short distance to the community center to participate in the next-to-last thing they would do together as students at RHS.

The event started silly -- even after the Alice Cooper and the duck were put away. Students danced and played a game called Wizards, Elves and Giants, which was like rock, paper, scissors but with a lot more body language and sound effects.

Things got a little more serious as the event went on. Students talked about the future, or about the 13 years they've spent growing up together. They had a chance to thank each other for being friends or being there during difficult times.

The event wasn't for everyone. Many of the seniors left after graduation practice. But principal John Wollersheim said he expected that. As the event kicked off Tuesday he said he'd be happy if half the senior class showed up, and while there was no official count it looked like that was about what he got.

And Wollersheim said the students who showed up seemed to enjoy themselves.

"I think it was really good," Wollersheim said. "At the end it was a chance for them to say things to each other they wanted to say, and to say good bye. It was an inspiring thing to watch.

"A lot of them just thanked the people there for being good friends and said they were going to miss them. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone was listening to each other."

Wollersheim said a lot of the students who attended stood around for a while after the event had ended, talking to each other.

The event ended with an ice cream social, which has been traditional for RHS seniors on the last day of school.

Wollersheim said he's already gotten good comments on the event from students.

Globe College sponsored this year's event, and Wollersheim said if it is free again next year the school will be "very tempted" to put it on again. If there's a cost, he said, he would have to figure out whether it will fit into the school's budget.

For one year, though, the event appears to have been a hit.

"It was hard not to feel emotional yourself watching it, because these kids -- it was neat to watch the interaction," Wollersheim said. "A lot of these kids got up and talked about, 'I've been with you guys since kindergarten or first grade,' and that's pretty cool."