Oak Creek To send off its 21 seniors, Soroco High School filled Saturday afternoon with baby photos and fifth-grade memories, glitter and balloons and songs that ranged from rock to opera.
During the ceremony, the class received advice and encouragement from an unprecedented five commencement speakers, all of whom had taught the students during their academic careers. The seniors opted to invite five speakers instead of the typical one to make the ceremony more personal.
This year's class of three boys and 18 girls drew out a crowd of about 650 friends, family members and former teachers and students.
In front of the packed audience, class valedictorian Sara Jo Linden urged her classmates to make the most of their lives after Soroco.
"Tomorrow life will sweep down on us," she said. "Don't let the world take you by surprise.
"Be wild, be daring. Always remember your strength even when you are weak."
Senior Kendell Hammond made her minute-long salutatorian address to the point.
She told the seniors that she was sure millions of people were probably asking them what their after-graduation plans were and they were probably giving a range of answers.
But, she said, "Whatever that (plan) is, do it well, and do it good."
Teachers said the interesting and varied paths these seniors will set off on once the graduation celebrations end reflect the creativity and uniqueness of the students.
Dawn Melarvie, one of the five speakers, said the way the seniors decorated the gym with green and purple fabric, paper, balloons and glitter was also a sign of their creative talent.
"Since the first grade, you have been going above and beyond every project we gave you," she said. "(The decorations) have your fingerprints all over them, and it makes me smile."
Melarvie taught most of the students when they were first-, third- and fifth-graders and said she figured she had spend more than 2,000 hours with them.
That's why she knew the "dirt" on each of them, she said.
Melarvie then told stories, like the time Tara Allen got stuck in snow up to her neck while skiing a beginner's slope on a class trip, or the time Katie Craven mistook Bach for Hulk Hogan.
Melarvie played a tape that seniors Sierra Montoya and Chelsea Iacovetto made when they were in third grade. As high-pitched and off-tune voices crooned to "You are the wind beneath my wings," the audience laughed.
Melarvie teased the other students with various stories they thought were in the depths of their past and showed notes, wall hangings and pictures the students had given her during their elementary school years.
"You have woven into the very fabric of who I am. You are part of the tapestry of my life," she told the seniors.
The four other commencement speakers similarly praised the class and thanked them for the impact they had made on the school and the community.
Science teacher Ed Hayne used bits of songs to give the class advice. After playing the Everly Brothers' "All I have to do is Dream," he told the seniors to hold onto their dreams.
"Dream, because dreams lead to goals, and without goals, life is pretty meaningless," Hayne said. "Dream often, and dream big."
Peggy Barnes, the kindergarten teacher at Soroco elementary, recounted how 13 years ago, a group of children came into her kindergarten class without knowing how to tie their shoelaces or sharpen their pencils.
"As I look at them now, I realize they are once again going to become kindergartners only their classroom will be real life," Barnes said.
In addition to saying goodbye to the seniors, the school said goodbye to Principal Richard Coleman, who has been Soroco's principal for the past 14 years.
Students presented Coleman with an honorary degree and cap at the end of the ceremony. Before leaving the auditorium, the seniors and Coleman tossed their caps high into the air.
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