Evansville high graduates told they control their destiny
Evansville graduates heard a similar message from speakers Sunday: The next chapter of life is what you make of it.
Hundreds of family and friends filled chairs and bleachers inside the air-conditioned gym at Evansville High School for the ceremony, which marked the graduation of 138 students.
Principal Scott Everson welcomed the crowd by joking he was skipping his 25-minute speech in light of the hot, humid weather. He said this year's class is an "unbelievable group," and told parents, family and community members they can be proud of all the graduates.
A safe harbor
The ceremony was the last for Superintendent Heidi Carvin, who will retire this month after nine years in the position. She told the crowd how living in Evansville marked the first time she was able to call a small town "home."
"Your home anchors you," she said, describing positives such as knowing people you can trust and negatives such as becoming too comfortable and not being willing to explore opportunities.
"You are all set to sail today," she told the graduates. "Don't be afraid to pull out the anchor and find out. … You'll always have a safe harbor in Evansville."
After graduates received their diplomas, they pulled colorful leis out of their blue gowns to dress up Everson as they shook hands.
It's a tradition that started two years ago at Everson's first graduation ceremony, when graduates each handed him a piece of a puzzle. Last year, it was sticky notes.
"We went to the Family Dollar to see what we could come up with, and they (leis) were right there," class President McKenzie Baumberger said after the ceremony.
Everson received the leis in stride, joking how hot it was with dozens of plastic necklaces around his neck and many more on his left arm.
The worst part, which people don't realize, is "these were all really sweaty before they put them on me," he said.
Nevertheless, he instructed the graduates to flip their tassels, and the room filled with cheers as graduates threw their caps into the air.
A handful of graduates joined risers full of choir members dressed in black for the song "Make Them Hear You," arranged by Jeff Funk. The song featured senior soloists, and the emotional piece made it tough for some of the graduates to make it to the end without tears.
At the end, senior choir members gathered for a big group hug before returning to their classmates.
The wind ensemble also filled the gym with the sounds of "Perthshire Majesty" by Samuel Hazo.
Graduation marks just the beginning of the test for graduates, said speaker Bill Hartje, an English teacher who is retiring after 39 years.
Teachers, parents and the community have tried to prepare the graduates, "but ultimately, you are responsible for the path that you choose," he said.
"If you think I was a hard grader, wait to see how life scores your efforts," he said.
He gave his students one final test, quizzing them on their memories from freshman English:
"You have learned not to judge by appearance because, after all, all that glitters…" he said, "is not gold," the graduates replied.
"You should not, of course, judge a book…" he said, "by its cover," the graduates replied.
Graduates completed about a dozen more common sayings, ending with "the cream always rises … to the top."
"You, too, will be successful in life," he said. "You will be the cream of the crop if you remember these simple ideas."