Bouncy balls, decorated caps help make Evansville High School graduation memorable

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Gina Duwe
Sunday, June 8, 2014

EVANSVILLE--Evansville High School graduates should be themselves, push themselves and own their story, their social studies teacher DeeJay Redders told them in Sunday afternoon's commencement address.

“Be you,” he told the 94 graduates participating in the ceremony. “Do not allow others to steer your fate. You get one shot, make it yours.”

Each day is too precious for mediocrity, so graduates should strive to make a difference, he said.

Principal jokes

Principal Scott Everson welcomed the crowd, noting this was the first graduation in several years that didn't endure scorching heat. He had kept his speeches short in the past, but now he had a chance to use a speech he had planned for many years, he said.

“101 tips to success,” he joked.

“No. 1, have a sense of humor,” he said, though he kept his welcome to 2.5 minutes.

The joke later was on him, per tradition. After graduates received their diplomas, they handed their principal a brightly-colored bouncy ball.

Everson knows to expect something from each graduate during his handshake with each one. Past items have included puzzle pieces, sticky notes and leis. He took it in stride, stuffing the bouncy balls in his pockets.

“We were hoping he'd drop them all,” Valedictorian Hunter Johnson said later.

Student message

In their collaborative address, the class officers thanked everyone who had a hand in getting them through school and described the proud moments of advancing to each new school.

When the classmates started school 13 years ago, if their parents had a cellphone, it was a “Nokia that could take out a brick wall,” class Vice President Clark Cybart-Fuson said to laughter.

Graduates should do their best, learn from their mistakes and have fun in whatever path is ahead, class treasurer Kyle Anderson said. He challenged his peers to pursue their dreams and goals.


At least one group of friends got together to decorate their mortarboards, inspired by ideas they found on Pinterest. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of fake rhinestones spelled out “2014” and other designs across the caps of many graduates.

“It took hours,” said Erika Bailey, who glued gems in a waterfall pattern and attached a black and white bow with a silver glittery “14” to the back of her cap.

She said it felt “weird, not quite real yet” to have just graduated. She plans to attend UW-Oshkosh for nursing.

Not forgotten

Two members of the class, Ciara Smith and Jessica Arnold, never made it to graduation, but their classmates remembered their short lives, graduate Jessica Schmuck said.

Some students decorated their caps and wore white ribbons around their wrists to remember them, she said.

She was among friends of Arnold who visited her grave before graduation, she said.

The white ribbons were a way to remember Arnold, Bailey said.

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