Today was John Mall High School’s graduation. For a small town, it’s a big event. 31 seniors graduated this year. The center of the gym was filled with their families. Aunts, uncles, dads, moms, siblings and children. In the bleachers are all the friends and community members. Up near the stage on one side was the Board of Education and honoured guests. The staff and band sat on the other side. Morgan went with me and was up in the bleachers, watching a ceremony she skipped by going to college at 15.
At 10:30am, the band began to play Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance. Band has only recently returned to the district, and they will get better. I watched people flinch at the wrong notes at the same time they smiled. The seniors filed in and filled the seats on the stage to the sound of hoots, whistles, cheers and clapping.
We listened to speeches. We watched our foreign exchange student receive an honorary diploma. We clapped and cheered as scholarships were handed out for merit, public service, educational excellence and for overcoming obstacles.
We laughed and tried not to cry as the power point program shared pictures of the students as babies and then seniors. We smiled as it shared goofy pictures of school events as well as Prom, Homecoming and everyday classrooms.
Then it was time. As board president, it’s my duty to hand out diplomas to the students and shake their hands. I’m the point of transition from student to graduate. 31 nervous students. 30 hot and sticky or cold and clammy handshakes as I handed them their diplomas and wished them well. One diploma was handed out by a former board member to his niece. He thanked me for letting him honour her, and tried not to cry when he shook her hand and gave her the diploma.
Then it was over and caps flew in the air. They were graduates. All these young people celebrating their achievements Some so tall when I remember them in diapers. Others so grown up, and poised. As we moved out of the gym, we shook hands with friends, chatted with people and felt the collective sigh of relief.