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Hot night, cool WHS graduates

The Class of 2010 throws their mortarboards into the air at the conclusion of Friday night's commencement ceremony at Worthington High School.1 / 2
Worthington High School 2010 graduate Max Pierson has his tassel moved by Superintendent John Landgaard during the Commencement Ceremony Friday night in Worthington.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- If the haberdashery displayed by the male graduates of the Worthington High School (WHS) Class of 2010 at the school's 123rd commencement ceremony last night is any indication, the 152 graduates are a diverse bunch indeed.

A colorful array of ties in shades of red, solid black, white, burgundy, gray, black-and-white stripes and more peeked out from beneath the classic black gowns topped by red stoles -- although some of the guys opted for open-collared shirts or simple black crew necks.

"Look around this room," urged Fayise Abrahim, class secretary and one of the three student speakers. "Do you see all the different ethnicities and languages represented here? The biggest challenge you will face is finding your own true identity and discovering what you are to the world and what the world is to you."

While at times the WHS gymnasium seemed a fluttering mass of white programs employed as cooling fans, the crowd was largely attentive and the seniors seemed cheerful yet calm throughout the nearly 90-minute event.

"This is a special class," offered WHS principal Paul Karelis in his opening remarks. "You represent this school with a lot of pride and dignity in academics as well as in clubs and athletic activities.

"Now it's time to begin broadening your horizons and sharpening your skills."

After the underclass members of the WHS concert band, directed by Jon Loy, accompanied the seniors to their seats with roughly 20 polished rounds of the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance," an ensemble of eight senior choir members delivered a well-rehearsed a cappella version of the National Anthem.

WHS choir director Kerry Johnson later conducted all 25 senior choir members in singing the reflective "Lullabye: Goodnight My Angel," and the senior band members rejoined the underclass instrumentalists one final time for a rousing rendition of "Fanfare and Flourishes," featuring a soaring French horn line.

"Some of us aren't ready to leave school yet, and some of us are so ready to be out of here it's not even funny," related student speaker Kathleen Fleming, one of the 25 graduates earning high honors (GPA of 3.5 to 3.749).

Twenty-six more, including class president Deann Naab, achieved highest honors (GPA of 3.75 to 4.000).

Naab attributed the students' cumulative success to the undying support of teachers and parents.

"You [parents] cared for us unconditionally, and we will always be thankful for the little things you did for us," credited Naab, who also drew laughs with her recollections of roller-skating in the basement gymnasium at Central Elementary School.

"Be sure to thank these teachers before you walk out those lobby doors for the last time," added Naab.

During the course of the evening, Karelis recognized Crailsheim exchange student Katrin Staudacher for her gleeful involvement in school activities (band, choir, softball, soccer, swimming and National Honor Society), calling her a "great addition to our student body" while her beaming parents and two sisters, visiting from Germany, proudly watched.

Worthington Middle School science teacher Kathy Rain was chosen to present the class to the school board for graduation, and she kept her remarks "brief and from the heart," as Karelis had promised while introducing her.

Rain dropped these nuggets of advice: "Do what you love, dream big, be tenacious and resilient, work hard and never give up, and don't forget where you came from and what you believe."

With a simple backdrop of black and red tulle bunting and two balloon towers at either end of the stage, the WHS Class of 2010 gained their diplomas from District 518 school board members, receiving a handshake and a red rose presented to them by senior class advisers.

Elizabeth Berger, parent of graduate Wesley Berger, provided piano music during the presentation of diplomas.

District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard took charge of moving each mortarboard tassel from right to left as he congratulated the newly minted graduates.

"You have achieved a great deal and made your mark on Worthington," assured Landgaard. "Now you can make your mark on the world."

But it was the words of student speaker Abrahim, who also graduated with highest honors and as a National Honor Society member, that seemed most stirring to the audience. Abrahim will attend Amherst College -- one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges -- in Massachusetts next fall on a full-ride scholarship to study political science and economics.

Displaying both wit and wisdom, Abrahim joked about the "constant video surveillance" under which the class had endured its four years at WHS.

"One time I saw [WHS math teacher] Mr. Koller at Wal-Mart and I immediately shoved my cell phone into my pocket before I realized I wasn't in school," teased Abrahim. "This outstanding, diverse class has survived the crippling disease of senioritis."

Turning more serious, Abrahim continued, "Leave behind your high school mentality. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. See you on Facebook, and make it a great day, or not -- the choice is yours."

By all appearances, Abrahim and her classmates seem poised to make the positive choice as they joyfully recessed amid a flurry of flying mortarboards and Silly String.