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Friday, May 6, 2016

Purdy seniors soar through graduation

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Purdy High School's Class of 2009 faced the audience for a round of applause having followed the processional into the school gym for commencement exercises. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Spirits were high as the Purdy community turned out to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2009 at Purdy High School on Saturday evening. The stark contrast to last year's disruption by a killer tornado made the occasion that much sweeter as mild temperatures resulted in a relaxed evening for a gathering.

Band director James Adams led the brass and wind ensemble in Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1," cueing the audience to stand as the graduates entered the gym. Once assembled, the seniors stood to receive applause.

The students sat down before a backdrop bearing the words of the class motto from the Pink Floyd song "Breathe": "The longer you live, the higher you fly, the smiles you give, the tears you cry, all you touch, and all you see is all your life will ever be."

Valedictorian Mason Roller began his address like a commercial pilot. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight 2009. We will be flying non-stop from kindergarten to high school graduation. The weather ahead is good and therefore we should have a smooth flight. Approximate flight time is 13 years."

The time had gone fast, Roller said. He urged his classmates to take time to remember those on their flight, their diversity and ideas. Nonetheless, all the graduates still came from one town, "where everybody knows your name, where the truck's a Ford and the tractor's green, and Amazing Grace is what we sing."

Leaving a stream of memories behind, Roller told his classmates the sky is the limit to their freedom. "You may find a new home, a place where you're free to explore your gifts and talents, a place where your faith is challenged and strengthened, a place where you will prepare to fulfill your dreams," Roller said. "It's been a joy to be part of this flight. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be your captain."

Salutatorian Logan Terry extended thanks to his parents and teachers for their encouragement. Looking ahead, he told his classmates to expect obstacles.

"I just hope that the past 13 years have prepared us to either remove the obstacle or have the ability to overcome it," Terry said.

"Our class has been a unique class," Terry recalled. "We seldom fight. We care for each other, never holding a grudge toward anyone. In all honesty I think we will be the most successful class that has every come out of Purdy High."

Terry recalled the example of Sir Edmund Hilary, the first man known to have climbed Mt. Everest. Such an achievement took preparation.

"We will need to have the dedication and determination to get up and continue life with the best of our abilities," Terry said. "We now possess the tools that will allow us to reach the pinnacle of our dreams."

The special faculty speaker that addressed the class was Lauren Lee, the vocal music instructor. Lee said her introduction to this body of students came in a late afternoon music appreciation class five years ago. The class of mostly boys had several factions, and she viewed their collective survival as an ultimate success.

Over the years, Lee said she gained many memories of the students, from the tragedies to their joys. She praised their achievements. Turning to the illustration of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, Lee cautioned the students not to shy away from struggle, or they might end up like the insect, with shriveled wings and a swollen body, unable to fly.

"There are some lessons we may not have relayed fully," Lee said. "We may not have stressed to you the importance of separating your whites from reds so you don't get pink underwear. We may not have held you completely responsible for all your actions. Please forgive us for leaving out some of the important lessons in life in these short years we have had the pleasure to be a part of."

Lee challenged the students to work for success, to "stay up late to get the job done right, and not just done," and to rely on know-how and courage to keep going when things don't go well.

"This is how you break free from your cocoon," Lee concluded.

The program also included performances by the Senior Choir, under the direction of Lee. A slideshow offered photos taken through the year of daily class scenes and big moments like sporting events and proms.

At the program's conclusion, Maria Sanchez offered one more round of reminiscences, then charged her classmates to start a new life with a clean slate.

The seniors faced the audience, turned the tassels on their mortar board hats and accepted the applause of the crowd. Leaving to the same music that brought them in, the graduates withdrew from the gym, only to come back immediately to throw their hats in the air to end the evening.

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