DANVILLE — Getting a high school diploma is a 13-year test. Youths learn about a variety of things, then put that knowledge to work as they advance through the school system. It’s a continuous test that must be survived as much as passed. Thirty-nine members of Danville’s Class of 2009 culminated their survival of 13 years during commencement ceremonies Saturday in the high school gym.
“I want to thank you for the most memorable day,” said Danville valedictorian Tracy Payne. “We’re all starting the next new chapter of our lives.
“You may remember after fourth grade, the teachers had shirts made that said, ‘We survived the Class of 2009.’ Well, we survived 13 years at Danville. Although this is the end of a big part of our lives, it’s not the end of our journey. It’s just the end of one chapter. We made some special connections here and that will always travel with us.”
After the graduates marched into the gym, Shelby Gonzales welcomed everyone to the ceremony with a message of survival.
“If we can behave another hour, the faculty can say they survived the Class of ’09,” she said.
Commencement speaker Mike Beheler reiterated that theme of survival.
“When Shelby says we survived, it was, but it was a fun survival,” Beheler said. “It’s been a roller coaster of emotion.”
Beheler said he had his speech written well in advance of the graduation ceremonies, but things changed after reading the final edition of the Danville Beacon, which featured the seniors and their thoughts on their years at DHS.
“I read the remember whens and the wills and laughed at some of the things I knew and some of the things I didn’t. What caught my eye was the question, ‘What would you do if you could change anything about your time in high school?’ The majority wished they would have worked or studied harder. Are you now willing to do the lesson you learned in the competitive world? If you believe it, now is the time to do it. Some of you will go to college, some to the military and some to the work force. The key is doing the best you can do.”
Following Beheler’s speech, the senior members of the band joined in “Eiger — A Journey to the Summit,” followed by Gonzales and Keith Drake singing along with the choir on “I Will Remember You.”
Salutatorian Garrett Blue also spoke of the graduation ceremony being the end of a journey for the 39 members of the class.
“We’re leaving behind our desks and homework, and hopefully, we’re taking the best memories we’ll have in our lives,” Blue said. “I’ll think of the people who make Danville what it is. I’m going to miss each and every one of you. I had a blast in high school.”
Drake and Katlyn Zimelis presented a U.S. flag to the school in honor of the nine Danville graduates who lost their lives fighting for the country over the years.
Following the reading of class honors, the 39 students crossed the stage and received their diplomas, then turned their tassels, completing the final test of survival at Danville High School.