With the yellow glow of a perfect May dusk falling on their parents and families in the stands, the 345 members of SM North’s 2014 graduating class filed into SM North District Stadium Tuesday with the strains of Pomp and Circumstance floating across the field. Most of the people in the stadium were smiling. Some were crying. Some were doing both at the same time.
It’s hard to fully encapsulate the experience of four years of high school in one evening — for the students, or the parents who watched their children’s fits and starts as they make their way through adolescence. But graduation night certainly provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on how far the students have come.
We spoke with four attendees at last night’s ceremony to see what graduation night meant to them.
Destany Bowers, graduate
Destany Bowers stood on the concrete path at the back of the school where she’d spent the past four years diligently studying away with a big grin on her face. The graduation ceremony marking the end of her high school career was just 10 minutes away. And she was ebullient.
“All this week, the family has been saying, ‘You’re doing great, it’s been awesome doing it with you and seeing your struggles and your high points,'” she said. “And, just, ‘Congratulations,’ too.”
Bowers will be heading to Lawrence in August to start classes at the University of Kansas. But she won’t be taking a break from academics this summer, she says. One of the things she’s most looking forward to about the break is being able to read.
“I’ll be working — and reading,” she said. “I’m so excited to be reading. 1984, Everything is Illuminated. I’ll reread Frankenstein. And whatever else interesting comes across my path.”
Bowers said high school taught her the importance of a sense of self and not getting pulled into pointless comparisons with others.
“Learn to be your own person,” she said. “When you stop caring about having friends or trying to be the best at something, that’s when it all comes to you.”
Selene Feyerabend, mother
Selene Feyerabend sat erect on the edge of the aluminum bench in the SM North Stadium stands, peering out onto the field, waiting for her daughter, Thania Aquino to find her seat. It’s been a big month for Feyerabend and Aquino.
Selene Feyerabend on watching her daughter graduate
Listen to mother Selene Feyerabend talk about watching her eldest daughter, Thania Aquino, who she had when she was 15, graduate from high school.
But Feyerabend’s pride in the fact that her daughter was about to receive her diploma was almost beyond words. She had Aquino, the eldest of four children, when she was 15.
“It’s been very hard,” Feyerabend said. “I’m very excited for her because everything that she’s been dreaming her whole life, it’s becoming a reality.”
The two have a special bond, Feyerabend said, because, in a sense, they grew up together.
“Both of us grew up and matured kind of like together. We’re like sisters,” she said.
Now, Feyerabend tells her daughter, the sky is the limit.
“Everything you put your mind into, it can become a reality,” she said.
Aquino will be attending Kansas State University in the fall and will be pursuing a career in graphic design.
Christopher Cambrice, graduate
Graduate Chris Cambrice could sum up his high school experience pretty succinctly: “It means that I made it.”
Cambrice will be working at FedEx over the summer before starting junior college classes this fall. He’s looking to transfer to the Savannah College of Art and Design after that. But on Tuesday, he was mostly focused on walking across the stage. “It’s going to feel awesome,” he said. “Then I’m going to spend the night with my best friends.”
Cambrice said high school had taught him the importance of tolerance and keeping an open mind.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” he said. “There are a lot of people. You’ve got to give everybody a chance.”
Dick Kramer, SM North principal
Principal Dick Kramer on graduation night
Hear SM North principal Dick Kramer’s thoughts on the meaning of graduation night
“Are you all ready?” Kramer asked.
“You’re getting the best,” replied the ROTC commander.
Kramer smiled and walked into his office, where members of the district administration and board of education were waiting.
In seven years as principal, graduation night has lost none of its luster, he says.
“It’s the most special evening of the year,” he said. “It’s neat to see four years of where the students started, and where they finish and how they’ve grown in their experiences and what that legacy will be for North. It’s exciting.”
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SM NORTH CLASS OF 2014!