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Brooks: RHS graduation extra special this year

After a century of growth and progress and months of discussion about it, we've finally arrived at the graduation of the 100th class of Rosemount High School. On Saturday, June 3, over 500 seniors sat in caps and gowns, awaiting the pomp and circumstance that will precede their long-awaited walk across the graduation stage to have their moment in the educational limelight. Most of us can remember our own graduation and many of you will likely recall your special night at RHS. This year, it truly is a newsworthy item.

In my 33 years at Rosemount, I think I can remember missing one graduation. I nearly missed two until a set of parents convinced me it would be a decision I would regret. As it turns out, they were right. Last year, the end of my first year of retirement, I did not attend graduation. This year, I intend to be there if the event is held outside. If not, then the night belongs to the families and friends of the Class of 2017; I'll likely show up at the end to be in the Performing Arts Center where they actually receive the diploma document. I can congratulate students there and wish them well in the years ahead.

I remember my graduation like it was yesterday. In those days, we always held the annual affair in the gymnasium. We listened to speeches, some musical numbers, and it was that night when students learned of scholarships and awards. Until then, to my knowledge, no one knew who would receive which award, monetary or otherwise. I had not planned to go to college, so I knew I wouldn't be on pins and needles because they certainly wouldn't be calling my name. However, they did call my name for the "Citizenship Award." I had been fairly active in the school and the community, and it was recognized with a framed document and a $50 savings bond. I was flabbergasted. The night was already an emotional rollercoaster for me, and receiving this recognition only pushed me over the edge.

We wore the robes from the choir room that night, so when graduation ended, we'd have to walk through the choir room to return our robes. The choir director was there to receive the robes. This was a man for whom I had the utmost respect. He was the one person who saying goodbye to would be the most difficult. As I turned my robe in to him, I got a handshake, a hug and a small gift. The dam was building pressure and I needed to run to my car.

As I raced down what seemed to be an endless hallway, my Spanish teacher stopped to congratulate me and to give me one of her patented hugs. She was an awesome lady, but I needed her to let me go so I could avoid a total breakdown. Once outside, walking to my car, the tears began to flow. When I got inside my car, so did my weeping. It was a night I couldn't forget even if I wanted to, which I don't.

As a teacher, I always likened going to graduation each year with that of a coach or a director of a show. After days and weeks of preparing for the big game or the opening night performance, why wouldn't the coach/director want to be there to see the final product and the fruits of their labor? Each year, I was with these folks for four years. Of course I am going to see them graduate. When they would return to receive the diploma, it was closure for me to have my moments with the kids who I had, on some level, connected. Each year, it was always an emotional night.

This year, aside from the normal speeches from one faculty member and one senior student, there'll be music prior to the beginning of graduation by the band; during the ceremony, there will be two songs performed by the choir. The second of those songs, every year, is The Irish Blessing. It's a beautiful song that always brings me to tears. Two years ago when I spoke at the 2015 graduation, I fought tooth and nail to hang on to my emotions as they sang that traditional tune.

This year, in addition to this year's principal on the stage, there will be the three past principals. All other RHS principals have since passed. It will be a special night for everyone.

Graduation night is certainly a night for the seniors to feel a sense of accomplishment, but the parents/guardians who have been there all through the years have reason that night to be proud of their efforts as well. It really is a night for community. This year, it simply has special significance. This year, the night belongs to everyone. Maybe we'll see you on that night of pride.