Parker High grads seize inner superheroes

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Neil Johnson
Saturday, June 7, 2014

JANESVILLE—Nobody knows how to shut up a crew of loud students like the school lunch lady.

Janesville Parker High School cafeteria worker Barb Moore silenced a long, thundering wave of applause as she took the podium to give the staff address at the high school's graduation Friday night at Monterey Stadium.

“You want to graduate tonight or tomorrow?” the school's longtime lunch lady said.

Parker's graduation Friday night had a superhero theme, complete with superman-themed student speeches. One student wore a necklace of candy Pop Rocks in special edition wrappers emblazoned with the mutant superhero troop X-Men.       

Moore, speaking in front of a crowd of 1,000 and 300 graduates, sang a few bars of the 1907 standard “School Days,” told students to pat themselves on the back but not to forget to give their teachers and parents a few pats.

Her speech, a humble one broken up by rounds of cheers, cut to the chase. She told students to seize their inner superhero.

“You can be a teacher. A computer geek. Do robotics, be a doctor, or focus on the arts. Do something with your music,” Moore said. “Or you could even become a lunch lady. The world is open to you.”

Super speeches

Parker High's four co-valedictorians delivered thematic speeches on the philosophy of superheroes. One speech gave a message of hope, drawing from the dialogue in a Spiderman movie. Another touched on the vulnerability and humanness of superheroes and real-life examples of Kryptonite, the bane of Superman.

Valedictorian Rachel Perkins admitted she didn't know a thing about superheroes. To prepare her address, she had to Google “superhero.”

But Perkins, who according to family members plans to attend seminary at Wartburg College to be a Lutheran minister, talked about the superpowers of her fellow students.

Some of her peers' top powers: They can scarf meals from Taco Bell in less than 15 minutes. They can complete 8 hours worth of homework in the two hours sandwiched between school, extracurriculars and sleep.

In a jab at the school's crosstown rival, the Cougars of Janesville Craig High School, Perkins joked about how the Vikings of Parker high get their super strength.

“Vikings eat Cougar meat,” she said.

Super memory

Graduate Diamond Parks said her favorite high school memory was the one unfolding in front of her on Friday. 

Parks, who has a seven-month-old daughter, Amari, said the smart money seemed to be against her ever getting a high school diploma. Fair on not, she said a lot of people think young mothers don't stand a chance to graduate.

Parks smiled Friday, showing off her graduation cap and gown along with gleaming green and gold fingernails, which she decorated herself with decorative, faux diamonds.  

“People thought I wouldn't make it. That I'd drop out. But I didn't. I'm graduating,” she said.

Parks, who dreams of being a nurse someday, said her motivation to graduate came from her daughter. She said she'd be looking for her mother and Amari in the crowd.

“Her being here, having her, she pushed me to get here tonight,” Parks said.

It's unlikely Amari will remember the ceremony, but Parks said she'd never forget having her daughter there.

“I just wanted her to be here to see me,” Parks said. “I did it.”

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