CENTERBURG — Under a sunny, breezy sky, to slightly raucous cheers from the crowd, Centerburg’s senior class marched into Memorial Park on Saturday, determined not to let recent events mar the celebration.
When school officials decided Thursday night to cancel a formal commencement due to students cheating on a test, the community got busy to pull together a substitute ceremony. Family and friends poured into the park, bringing lawn chairs, well wishes and staunch support.
Looking at the crowd, parent Kevin Ballog said, “This is what small-town America is all about.”
Class officers Kevin Ball and Emily Gettis welcomed the group, and announced salutatorians for the class of 2009.
Salutatorian Yelena “Helen” Arishina told her classmates they were a diverse class with unique personalities, but they all pulled together.
“Now is the time to look back at our childhood years and cherish the time we had at Centerburg,” she said. “Everything we learned in high school has built us into the adults we are today.”
Valedictorian Aaron Pospisil joked about stressing out, probably too much, throughout his school career, then shared why he is class valedictorian.
When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, she told him it was her dream for him to be valedictorian of his class. Pospisil said he initially shrugged it off. Then, when his mother became terminal, he promised her on her deathbed that he would be valedictorian.
“So here I am, I’m giving my val speech,” he said.
Pospisil said his time at CHS was “all a blast,” and that he had so many memories. Acknowledging he probably called teachers things he probably shouldn’t have, he also said the seniors owe the teachers “more than what we may know.”
Referring to the cancellation of a formal ceremony, Pospisil said, “it’s tragic the way we are ending” our school career. But he also told the seniors to put it behind them.
“Let yesterday be the day of anger. Let today be the day of rejoicing,” he said, drawing a standing ovation from his classmates.
As their name was read aloud, each graduate walked across the stage to receive a red rose from Jeanette Lamb, mother of graduate Aaron Morris.
Lamb thanked everyone who helped make the outdoor ceremony a reality on such short notice.
“This would not have happened without the community,” she said.
She then led the class in the traditional turning of tassels, and presented the Centerburg High School Class of 2009 to the community.