Fenton High School Seniors Celebrate Graduation
The 278 members of the Fenton High School class of 2012 look forward to life after high school.
Graduate Shannon Lakey always wanted to know what it felt like to throw her cap in the air.
At Fenton High School's graduation Sunday, she finally got that chance.
"I've been waiting since kindergarten to graduate and throw my cap up in the air and everything," Lakey said.
Family and friends packed the Fenton High School gymnasium on Sunday for the graduation ceremony for the 278 graduates in the Class of 2012.
And they are a capable bunch, officials said.
Lynn Hopper, president of the Fenton Board of Education, said this year's seniors' have improved on previous graduating classes' talent, educational values and GPAs, not to say that previous students didn't do very well.
"The bar is continuing to rise," Hopper said.
High school counselor Elizabeth Elsesser, who was the Class of 2012's counselor when they were in seventh grade, agrees the graduates are a great group.
"I've known them a long time," Elsesser said. "They've worked hard."
Valedictorian Efrain Segarra said things are always changing, and change is natural. What's not natural, is holding on to things in the past and old memories instead of making new memories.
And while Segarra believes it's possible to grow up, he doesn't believe he's ever met someone who has. People still resist change when it comes their way, gossip with their friends and put things off out of fear. Making a decision and taking a leap of faith means a chance of being wrong and making a mistake.
But he urged his classmates to "never put off until tomorrow what you can do today."
"Knowing is better than wondering," Segarra said. "Waking is better than sleep. Wondering if we'll have to face the very worst beats the hell out of never trying."
Fenton High School's David Congdon has fond memories of kindergarten and excitement for the future.
His kindergarten teacher, Linda Mora, now is an instructor at Fenton Intermediate School, would give students' a small gift to celebrate their birthdays.
"We had a good time with learning letters and playing different games," said Congdon, No. 7 in Fenton's 2012 Top 10.
Now Congdon is moving on to his summer job at a beach, and he'll attend Hillsdale College in the fall.
While the graduates are excited and looking forward to their futures, said Salutatorian Julie Gilbert in her commencement speech, parents are remembering the students' past -- maybe their first play date, a school performance and their first varsity basketball game. These memories evoke tears on many faces, Gilbert said.
Throughout the ceremony, school officials and the seniors themselves spoke of those who helped the students during their 13-year journey through school.
Graduate Sarah Fritz said she enjoyed her four years of choir with teacher Bradley Wright, because it was different every day. A member of an all-girls choir, Wright learned lessons about self-confidence from Wright, and not to let anything get her down, she said.
Superintendent Dr. Timothy Jalkanen reminded graduates about the long journey they've taken through school, the challenges they overcame and those who helped them. Students' parents woke them up in the morning and maybe even selected their clothes for them, Jalkanen said. And the buses picked up the students and brought them to school. The 400 Fenton teachers and staff, the 10,000-plus member community and others all worked hard to bring the students to their graduation day.
The children are the fabric of the community, he said. Now, the graduates begin their own journey, equipped with the tools they've been given to be successful.
"The past 13 years have been planned for you, but now you start your own journey," Jalkanen said. "The security of that planned journey has come to an end."
Graduates must answer the questions of what they will do, and where they will go. He recommended they take the late Winston Churchill's advice, and "never give up. Never, never, never."
Jalkanen also asked graduates to remember the people who helped them.
"They can and they will help you in the future," he said.
Valedictorian Caitlin McBride said perhaps what defines her class is a mixture of other people and experiences. Even the school building has meant so many things, McBride said. It was a home and family for some, and a prison for others.
"This place has shaped us and continues to shape us," she said.
A graduation is a rare moment in life when they are suspended between what was and what will be, McBride said. However graduates have planned and prepared, what lies ahead is a mystery, an unknown. She asked her classmates to look to their futures and their last day as a class.
"Let's end the journey together," she said.
Parent Suzanne McCarthy attended the ceremony on Sunday, watching daughter Shannon McCarthy graduate. Shannon McCarthy is headed to the University of Michigan-Flint to study graphic design and illustration.
"I'm very proud of her. She's done a great job here," Suzanne McCarthy said.
The graduation ceremony was very nice, McCarthy said. "It's moving right along, and it's very nice and fluid."
Everyone dressed very nicely, and "it's just a beautiful, beautiful day for a graduation," she said.
Kirk Flannery, father of Shelby Flannery, said he remembers his daughter's choir concerts.
"It's amazing it's already over," he said. "It goes by so fast."
"It's been very amazing to watch her grow," added step-mother Kelly Flannery.
Shelby Flannery will go to Mott Community College to study occupational therapy, Kelly Flannery said.
As they move forward, Gilbert asked graduates to remember their classmates and not to forget their history. Without history, they are nothing.
"With it, we are everything," she said.