Speaker JaNell Kaleikini reminded her classmates that they were instilled with the heart of a lion at the beginning of their high school years, and were going out on the wings of a firebird.
Fidgeting, whooping with joy, asking when and how to flip their tassels.
The first graduating seniors of Free State High School waited impatiently on the indoor track at Allen Fieldhouse for their cue to begin their march toward center stage and into the annals of history.
``Everyone here made the choice to be the first class,'' senior Nathan Beard said. ``We could have stayed with a big group, but we wanted to come here.''
Beard and most of the other 107 graduating seniors were given the choice by administrators which high school they wanted to attend. The high school boundary runs east to west along 15th Street, but the first year seniors who lived north of the line, the Free State side, were given the option of staying with their LHS classmates.
Most who came said they wanted something new, and that's exactly what they got. They got a new building, new traditions and new opportunities.
``What would this year have been like as a combined senior class?'' senior speaker Aidan Loveland asked her classmates. ``Why are we the different ones? We are the class of '98 because we chose to be ... We are always going to be classmates. We are always going to be the inaugural class of Free State High School.''
Loveland spoke of ``breaking new ground'' and small, cohesive classes.
``We have a new responsibility,'' she said. ``It is now our job to make an impact on society.''
Loveland was one of three student speakers for the ceremony. Seniors Sarah Tacha and JaNell Kaleikini also shared their parting thoughts with the other graduates.
Tacha said members of the class are better people for what they accomplished this year.
``We were there and we left our mark,'' she said.
Tacha said she didn't want to hear more people talk about the first accomplishments of the class.
``Tonight is about us being us,'' she said. ``We began something unique to us.''
It was, perhaps, Kaleikini's speech that truly struck home. She mentioned the three students, Darren Rapp, Erin O'Donnell and Aaron Cochrane, who started high school with the class and weren't there to see the completion. All were killed in automobile accidents within the past three years.
Kaleikini reminded graduates that they were instilled with the heart of a lion at the beginning of their high school years, and were going out on the wings of a firebird.
``If you try, your wings won't fail you,'' she said. ``Use them to your advantage.''
After the speeches, when the final name had been called, the graduates tossed their caps in the air and looked for family members to celebrate the occasion.
One graduate, Julie Black, said she'll miss the ease of high school life.
``You can't just go to school and sit there and do nothing,'' she said. ``In college you have to work.''
--JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.